Opinion: Sabotaging Deferred Deportation

After the DREAM Act failed to pass Congress, President Barack Obama issued an executive order that would give qualified undocumented

Chris Crane is the the president of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, the ICE employees' union. (via latinalista.com)

youth the chance to apply for two-year work permits. Last month Chris Crane, union president of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, which is in charge of immigrant detention, criticized the Obama administration’s new, more lenient enforcement policy (video). Responding to the ICE union chief’s comments, journalist Rafael Prieto Zartha published an op-ed in La Tribuna Hispana and Huffington Post Voces. An edited translation follows below:

An official who publicly defies executive orders, especially if that employee belongs to an official agency whose agents carry arms, would be fired in any country in the world.

Nonetheless, in the 21st-century United States, employees of the immigration agency can say whatever they like, without any consequences, including declaring that they will not follow presidential directives, or those of their [agency] superiors.

This is what has been happening with Chris Crane, president of the union that represents Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) employees. He appeared at a press conference on Thursday July 26th, to deliver a rant against deferred action on deportations which was granted to undocumented students by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a program which will suspend deportation of DREAMers during the next two years.

During the press conference, Crane said: “During the past three and a half years we have been trying to work with this Administration, from Director (John) Morton to Secretary (Janet) Napolitano, who have not met with us… We have been to the White House and we’ve tried to talk to these guys, and basically they don’t want to hear our concerns.  They don’t want to work with us in any way.”

That is Crane’s position. He claims that the government is following its own opinions, and that the wishes of the executive branch are unknown.

Since when do Crane’s superiors, the director of a federal agency, the secretary of a national cabinet department, and the White House, have to justify an executive policy to a low-level agent?

Crane presented himself at the press conference, which was organized by the notoriously anti-immigrant Senator Jeff Sessions, as an intransigent opponent of President Obama.

Sessions, who accused the country’s premier African-American organization, the NAACP, of being a group inspired by communism, and who joked about his reasons for not belonging to the Ku Klux Klan, called the government’s immigration initiative an “amnesty.”

At the presentation for the media, Crane appeared with George McCubbin, the president of the union that represents Border patrol (CPB) agents, which has a membership of 17 thousand officials.

A History of Rebelliousness

McCubbin used his appearance to criticize Napolitano and the statistics the DHS uses to show that the border has become more secure.

Crane has a history of rebelling against the Obama administration’s directives.  On June 11, 2010, he announced a unanimous vote of no confidence in ICE Director John Morton, representing the 7,600 ICE agents and employees.

“It is the desire of our union within ICE, and of our employees, that we separate ourselves from the actions of Director Morton,” stated the document.

According to Crane, Morton had “abandoned” ICE’s principal mission of applying the immigration laws and protecting public security.

On July 26, 2011, Crane testified before the House of Representatives’ Judicial Subcommittee on Immigration, that ICE agents had taken vacation days in order to join public picket lines protesting the policies ordered by their bosses.

I will record for the third time: in August of 1981, a president with guts, Ronald Reagan, fired 11,345 members of the air traffic controllers union with one stroke of his pen, two days after they had announced they were on strike.

What Crane has been doing is a series of acts of insubordination, which deserve an exemplary punishment.

But we cannot expect anything from the ICE bureaucrats.  They made a mess of the legal discretion program.

Now we must all keep our eyes open so the same thing does not happen with deferred action.


  1. “Since when do Crane’s superiors, the director of a federal agency, the secretary of a national cabinet department, and the White House, have to justify an executive policy to a low-level agent?”

    I think we should be arguing for more transparency, rather than less, in agencies like this one, between high- and low-level officials, as well as between the agencies and the public.

    Law enforcement positions are non-partisan, and a law enforcement official should not have a partisan agenda. I agree that Chris Crane clearly has such an agenda, and I think the article does well to point this out. It is unprofessional for a law enforcement officer to bring his or her political views and prejudices into the workplace, as the law is supposed to apply across the board to every type of person.

    I think, as with all types of law enforcement officers, many ICE officials could use serious training in conflict analysis and resolution, as well as in tolerance, and professionalism. However, I disagree with the notion that “rebellious” or “insubordinate” ICE officials should be fired simply for participating in the prejudiced political environment that is an establishment of the organization. Rather, the structure of the organization should be examined thoroughly to determine what causes these prejudiced, unprofessionally political attitudes. And then changes should be implemented to address these issues.

    I especially disagree with the notion that anyone should be fired or reprimanded for protesting on vacation, or even for going on strike. The right to free speech and the right to protest and organize are some of the most valuable tools for change granted to American citizens; many types of people using them is part of the cost of having them available.

  2. My understanding is that the deferment is not available to people who have committed crimes, yet from what I’ve read, immigration agents are told to look the other way and release some suspects who are undocumented. This suggests that upper level officials are putting a political agenda above the rule of law.

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