On ICE

The Washington Examiner reports that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement "through their union ... released a letter announcing its recent unanimous 'vote of no confidence' in ICE agency heads, accusing them of 'misleading the American public' regarding illegal immigration in order to further a pro-amnesty agenda."

The National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council and its affiliated local councils cast a unanimous 259-0 vote of no confidence in ICE Director John Morton and Assistant Director Phyllis Coven, according to Fox News Channel's Martha MacCallum.

The Center for Immigration Studies has further details of the letter's contents. They accuse ICE leadership of abandoning its enforcement mission to pursue a goal of "amnesty by policy". These include the following bullet points.

  • While ICE reports internally that more than 90 percent of ICE detainees are first encountered in jails after they are arrested by local police for criminal charges, ICE senior leadership misrepresents this information publicly in order to portray ICE detainees as being non-criminal in nature to support the Administration's position on amnesty and relaxed security at ICE detention facilities.

    The majority of ICE ERO Officers are prohibited from making street arrests or enforcing United States immigration laws outside of the institutional (jail) setting. This has effectively created "amnesty through policy" for anyone illegally in the United States who has not been arrested by another agency for a criminal violation.

The Washington Post says that ICE Director John Morton is the focus of unending controversy even on "a good day". "On a typical day, John Morton finds himself under assault from the political right for failing to crack down on illegal immigration and from the left for cracking down too aggressively."

"You develop a thick skin in a job like this," said Morton, who admits to reading many of the brickbats that come his way but says they don't consume him. "I'd imagine that for some other senior leaders in government, the day when someone calls for their resignation would be the day they'd remember throughout their career. That's just part of the territory here.''

Sure enough, Morton and his agency evoke strong opinions from all sides. Crystal Williams, executive director of the pro-immigrant American Immigration Lawyers Association, faults him for overaggressive deportations and moving too slowly on promises to reform the immigrant detention system.

"If he's throwing people out without a lot of focus, he's hearing about it from the left, and that's what's going on here," she said. "If he's not doing enough enforcement, he'll hear about it from the right.''

It sounds like a nightmare situation in an agency caught in a tug of war between competing political interests and with its internal culture. The National Review Online noted with amusement the ICE agent's complaint about having to provide entertainments for the detainees, such as bingo, dance lessons and decorative shrubbery.

ICE Detention Reforms have transformed into a detention system aimed at providing resort like living conditions to criminal aliens. Senior ICE leadership excluded ICE officers and field managers (the technical experts on ICE detention) from the development of these reforms, and instead solicited recommendations from special interest groups. The lack of technical expertise and field expertise has resulted in a priority of providing bingo nights, dance lessons and hanging plants to criminals, instead of addressing safe and responsible detention reforms for non-criminal individuals and families. Unlike any other agency in the nation, ICE officers will be prevented from searching detainees housed in ICE facilities allowing weapons, drugs and other contraband into detention centers putting detainees, ICE officers and contract guards at risk.

The ICE agent's petition is a microcosm of the immigration debate. Bingo nights coexisting with weapons and drugs is a perfect metaphor for the situation. Policy is conflicted and consequently, so will enforcement.

One day someone will write a book about imperfect political consensus. What does a government do when it is in policy paralysis? When there is no dominant model about how government should respond to a situation it often zig zags. It goes in one direction to satisfy faction A and then goes 180 in the opposite direction to satisfy faction B with a net displacement of zero. Or if A is slightly stronger than B then it drifts to A, but at great wastage. Or if there are factions A, B and C then it just wanders around like a drunk. This is probably what is happening across a whole spectrum of policy areas. Why is policy often so irrational? Because it is.

It is interesting to compare and contrast the ICE bingo/drugs nights with one attended by Tom Friedman in Washington, this time reflecting private sector results in immigration.

Went to a big Washington dinner last week. You know the kind: Large hall; black ties; long dresses. But this was no ordinary dinner. There were 40 guests of honor. So here’s my Sunday news quiz: I’ll give you the names of most of the honorees, and you tell me what dinner I was at. Ready?

Linda Zhou, Alice Wei Zhao, Lori Ying, Angela Yu-Yun Yeung, Lynnelle Lin Ye, Kevin Young Xu, Benjamin Chang Sun, Jane Yoonhae Suh, Katheryn Cheng Shi, Sunanda Sharma, Sarine Gayaneh Shahmirian, Arjun Ranganath Puranik, Raman Venkat Nelakant, Akhil Mathew, Paul Masih Das, David Chienyun Liu, Elisa Bisi Lin, Yifan Li, Lanair Amaad Lett, Ruoyi Jiang, Otana Agape Jakpor, Peter Danming Hu, Yale Wang Fan, Yuval Yaacov Calev, Levent Alpoge, John Vincenzo Capodilupo and Namrata Anand.

No, sorry, it was not a dinner of the China-India Friendship League. Give up?

O.K. All these kids are American high school students. They were the majority of the 40 finalists in the 2010 Intel Science Talent Search, which, through a national contest, identifies and honors the top math and science high school students in America, based on their solutions to scientific problems. The awards dinner was Tuesday, and, as you can see from the above list, most finalists hailed from immigrant families, largely from Asia.

It's a tale of two cities. Illegal vs legal immigration. The American nightmare vs the American dream. ICE vs Intel. Hope and Change versus Plain Hard Work. The crazy thing is that if one were to ask which of these America needed the politically correct answer would probably be the former rather than the latter.