(CNSNews.com) - Chris Crane, president of a union that represents Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, testified in the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration last week that ICE agents have been told by ICE headquarters not to arrest illegal aliens who do not have a prior criminal conviction even if they are fugitives who have been ordered deported by an immigration judge or are individuals who have illegally re-entered the United States after being deported and thus have perpetrated a felony.
“Aliens who could not be arrested included but were not limited to ICE fugitives that had been ordered deported by a federal immigration judge as well as aliens who had illegally re-entered the United States after deportation, a federal felony,” Crane, who is also an active-duty ICE agent, told the committee on Oct. 12.
“ICE officers and agents also alleged that they were not permitted to arrest or even speak to confirmed or suspected illegal aliens encountered in the field during operations and were prohibited from running standard criminal record checks for wants and warrants,” Crane testified.
Crane had previously testified about the matter in the subcommittee in late July.
“When I last testified before the subcommittee on July 25, 2011, I reported among other things that ICE enforcement removal officers and agents in the field alleged that unwritten directives from ICE headquarters had been issued nationwide ordering officers not to arrest aliens unless it was confirmed that the alien had received a prior conviction for a criminal offense,” Crane told the committee last week.
Since his July testimony, he said, his union has been working with the Judiciary Committee on the issue.
“I would like to thank Chairman [Lamar] Smith and his staff for working with the union regarding this matter after the July 25 hearing,” said Crane. “Chairman Smith provided us with the opportunity to bring officers forward as witnesses. We were also able to turn over several internal ICE documents which appear to not only verify that these activities did in fact take place, but also named several senior level ICE managers allegedly involved in issuing the directives nationwide.
“Second,” Crane testified, “I would like to address the impact and effectiveness of these type of orders. I have never heard of any law enforcement agency in the nation that prohibits its officers from even speaking to or interviewing individuals who are inside a house in which the officers are attempting to affect an arrest.
“From a law enforcement standpoint what could be the possible benefit?” said Crane. “The only purpose for an order such as this is to prevent officers from making arrests which ICE leadership has allegedly stated is its goal. However, these directives not only prevent the arrest of non criminal aliens but also prevent the identification and arrest of very dangerous criminals, potentially individuals involved in terrorist activities.”
Crane told the committee that he believed the ICE policy was putting both the public and ICE agents at risk.
“It not only prevents officers from talking to and arresting persons who may be wanted for crimes but also individuals who are being victimized and in need of assistance,” said Crane. “Certainly, anyone can see that these practices are contrary to effective law enforcement practice and place the public at risk. Many officers will tell you that the majority of their best arrests, the arrests that most benefit public safety, come from unintended encounters with criminal aliens in the course of looking for a different target in the field.
“Of course, these practices also place our officers at risk,” said Crane. “Nothing that I could ever say here today can capture the dynamics as they unfold when a door opens and our officers enter a house that they've never been in before. It's dangerous. Officers don't know who is in the house or what they are capable of doing. Problems often arise that require officers to remain in a house for extended periods. Officers on the scene must have the ability to provide for their own safety. They should never be prohibited from talking to people at the scene, conducting interviews as needed, running appropriate background checks, or even making additional arrests.”
During an Oct. 19 hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama asked Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano about the information Crane had brought forward. Napolitano denied that agents were being told not to arrest fugitives and deportees who had re-entered the country.
“What I'm hearing is that while claiming to arrest more criminal aliens, internal ICE documents show that DHS leadership has ordered field officers not to arrest fugitives and re-entries and leadership efforts to conceal this from the public has led to confusion in the field,” Sessions told Napolitano.
"Well if they say that, they're not reading it correctly because that's exactly not the case,” Napolitano said. “They can be arrested, but at some point in the process there need to be decisions made about who is to be removed."
CNSNews.com recently reported that during fiscal years 2009 and 2010 ICE caught and released at least 28 Iranian who as of this January were considered fugitives in the U.S.--and that ICE would not say whether they were still fugitives as of the beginning of this week. Iran has been designated by the U.S. State Department as one of four state-sponsors of terrorism. The other three are Syria, Sudan, and Cuba.
Chris Crane is president of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council 118 of the American Federation of Government Employees. The National ICE Council, according to written testimony Crane presented to the committee, represents about 7,200 ICE employees, who mostly work in ICE’s Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations. Crane said he had been an ICE officer since 2003. Before that, according to Immigration Subcommittee Chairman Elton Gallegly, Crane had served 11 years in the U.S. Marine Corps.
During his time as an ICE agent, Crane told the subcommittee in his written testimony, he has worked in the Criminal Alien Program, which goes after aliens who have been charged with crimes by local or federal law enforcement, and also as part of a Fugitive Operations Team “whose primary function was to apprehend foreign nationals who had not departed the United States after receiving and Order of Deportation from a federal immigration judge.”