In his Aug. 3 letter to Morton, Sessions said reports indicated the ICE agent had been “served with a ‘Notice of Proposed Suspension’ for arresting an individual whom the agent observed entering the vehicle of an alien wanted for criminal activity in Newark, Delaware, and whom the agent later determined to be a 35-year-old illegal alien with ten previous convictions for traffic violations, including driving without a license.”
“According to the report, a memorandum by Assistant Field Office Director David O’Neill sates that the agent was told to release the detained alien even though he was in the country illegally,” Sessions continued in that August letter. “When the agent refused, he was threatened with a three-day suspension. It is my understanding that the acting field director advised the criminal alien that he would be let go because he was not a ‘presidential priority.’”
In mid-August, ICE’s Office of Congressional Relations responded to Sessions and confirmed that the allegations and reports were true.
“Our review of the facts contained in your letter revealed that the individual encountered by the officer claimed to be a citizen of Mexico and to have entered the United States at an unknown location in Arizona without admission or parole on September 22, 2002,” ICE’s Elliot Williams replied to Sessions, in another letter obtained by TheDC. Williams is Assistant Director of the agency’s Office of Congressional Relations.
That illegal alien, Williams wrote, was not on a “target list” for an operation ICE was conducting — called “Operation Cross Check III” — which is focused on the “apprehension of at-large criminal aliens who pose the most serious threats to community safety.”
“The officer took the alien into custody and transported him to the field office to conduct database queries regarding his immigration status and criminal history,” Williams continued, a practice that was “consistent with the guidance” provided to agents during the operation.
Williams said that query found the illegal alien had been “cited for minor traffic violations” that did not “lead to incarceration,” only fines.
Sessions countered, however, that one of those traffic violations was for operating a motor vehicle without a license. Williams did not address this detail. Even so, ICE’s position is that those violations, including driving without a license, are not “assumed to pose a threat to the community.”
Williams also confirmed that ICE leadership ordered the agent to release the criminal alien suspect. “As this individual did not fit the Cross Check criteria or any other ICE priority, and many other targets remained at large, the officer was instructed by both his first and second-level supervisors to cease processing this individual and instead return to the field to search for other targets,” he wrote.
Since the agent tried to continue processing the illegal alien anyway, ICE leadership, Williams wrote, has “propose[d] disciplinary action for [the agent's] failure to follow a supervisory instruction.”
Williams wrote on Aug. 15 in his letter to Sessions that “no disciplinary action” had yet been taken. But Crane and the ICE agents’ union have launched an online petition to respond to the threat of retaliation against the agent. More than 75,000 signers have expressed their support.
In his Sept. 11 reply to Morton, Sessions raised the issue of another case of an illegal alien released from custody after he allegedly physically assaulted law enforcement personnel.
“Apparently, even violent offenders are eligible for automatic release under the President’s non-enforcement policy,” Sessions wrote.
“Since I last wrote to you, several ICE agents filed a lawsuit against you and Secretary Napolitano in the federal district court for the Northern District of Texas. According to the complaint, ICE agent Samuel Martin, along with another ICE agent, picked up an illegal alien from the El Paso County, Texas jail on July 17, 2012.”
“While the agents were trying to place the individual in the vehicle, he attempted to escape and physically assaulted the agents,” Sessions continued. “Although the agents regained custody of the alien and transported him to the El Paso Criminal Alien Program office for processing, the agents’ supervisors ordered them to release the alien without charges and specifically to not issue a Notice to Appear, as required by 8 U.S.C. § 1225(b)(2)(A).”
“The agents protested the release of the alien but were told ‘it was a management decision, based on the President’s new immigration policies.’ Anyone with the even the slightest experience in law enforcement can see that such actions are devastating to law enforcement personnel.”