Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano and President Barack Obama trumpeted a new immigration policy in June, an announcement that culminated with an Obama Rose Garden press event during which he refused to take questions from the White House press corps about the controversial new policy.
Under the new “deferred action” policy, which critics have derided as an administrative application of the controversial DREAM Act, illegal aliens qualify to avoid deportation when they meet certain criteria.
Those eligible for special protection were under age 31 as of June 15, 2012; came to the United States before turning age 16; have resided continuously in the United States since June 15, 2007; “[a]re currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States”; and “[h]ave not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.”
Sessions blasted Morton for his “apparent failure to support” ICE agents and the rule of the law over the Obama administration’s political agenda with these new directives. “There is no question that the Administration’s unilaterally decreed policy is contrary to codified federal law and places our law enforcement officers in an untenable position,” Sessions wrote to Morton on Tuesday. “It comes as no surprise that the morale of your agents has plummeted.”
The Alabama GOP Senator questioned Morton’s qualifications to continue in his position, writing, “Your apparent failure to support your officers in these incidents, and your evident lack of concern for the Administration’s decision to nullify the very laws they were sworn to enforce, raises serious questions about your ability to lead this agency.”
To implement the administration’s new immigration policy, Obama and Napolitano have ordered ICE agents to use “prosecutorial discretion” to release from custody those illegal aliens who meet the new criteria. While the administration announced that the criteria would apply only to a specific subset of cases, but it appears that discretion is being applied more broadly.
The released Delaware suspect, for example, was 35 years old when taken into custody, according to Sessions. And he was released without charges although he had entered the United States when he was 25. Both facts, the senator argued, should have made the suspect ineligible for the special protections the administration outlined in June.
“The facts are not in dispute. … It was discovered that the apprehended alien was a 35-year-old Mexican citizen unlawfully present in this country who had incurred ten misdemeanor traffic violations and did not have a driver’s license,” Sessions wrote in his letter to Morton on Tuesday.
“Your letter acknowledges that the alien arrived in the U.S. in September of 2002, meaning that he was an adult aged around 25 at the time of his illegal entry. He could not, therefore, qualify for ‘deferred action,’ even under the Administration’s unlawfully imposed DREAM Act directive. … In this case, the individual entered the country as an adult, is well over the age of 30, and had multiple misdemeanor infractions.”
“ICE supervisors had no interest of any kind in his educational background,” Sessions said. “He was not eligible for ‘deferred action,’ but he was released regardless under the far broader non-enforcement policy that has been quietly instituted.”