The legal prohibition on new immigrants becoming primarily reliant on government assistance for subsistence — or public charges — is never enforced, Chris Crane, an ICE agent and president of the ICE agent’s union told reporters on a conference call Thursday afternoon.
“It is certainly part of what we are supposed to be doing, it is definitely a federal statute within the [Immigration and Nationality Act],” he said when asked about the enforcement of the century-old public charge restriction. “However I will say this: that in my career, I have never seen or heard of the charge being applied in any case to anyone.”
Crane — whose union is in the midst of a lawsuit against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, ICE Director John Morton, and U.S. Customs and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas over the administration’s changes to immigration policy — noted that even officers who have been in the agency longer than his ten years have told him they have never seen or heard it employed.
“I will say that when I went to the academy for my basic training, that was one of those laws we were told ‘you are never going to get to enforce this law out in the field, it just is not going to happen,’” Crane continued.
“It clearly has been true, because we are not permitted to enforce that statute,” he added. “Period.”
Crane explained that though he has never received a specific reason the statute is ignored, he chalks it up to image concerns and politics.
“I think they don’t want it to be seen in the media that potentially some story that might be compelling to the American public — that we are removing somebody that is a public charge. And it is very unfortunate because in so many cases it would be a very necessary and useful tool for us to make arrests and remove people.”
The Daily Caller reported Wednesday that the Department of Homeland Security admitted — in their response to a four Republican lawmakers’ oversight request — that DHS does not keep track or keep records on new immigrants who become public charges once they obtain their visas or otherwise enter the country.
After reviewing FY 2012 on a case-case-by-case basis to appease a portion of the oversight letter, DHS explained that they found just one case of an immigrant being brought up on public charge grounds. The charge was later withdrawn.
According to the Federal Register, deportations of immigrants due to becoming public charges after entry are relatively rare due to exemptions and legal burdens on the federal government.
Crane’s union, the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, represents over 7,000 ICE agents and employees.