Immigration lawyer demands firing of immigration union official

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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The general counsel of a wealthy industry group is angrily calling on President Barack Obama to fire an union activist who is urging Congress to incorporate union members’ views in a pending bill that is now being written in secret.

The industry leader is an immigration lawyer who helps companies import low-wage foreign workers, while the union leader is working with a Republican leader to shield American workers from low-wage competition by illegal immigrants.

David Leopold, the general counsel of the America Immigration Lawyers Association, aimed his March 26 invective at Christopher Crane, the serving president of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council. The council is an AFL-CIO affiliate that represents 7,000 federal immigration officers and employees.

Crane is also an employee of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

“How do you spell #insubordination? … Time for ICE to demand union boss Chris Crane’s badge & show him the door,” Leopold tweeted Tuesday.

“This attack on Mr. Crane is both ignorant and offensive,” responded Stephen Miller, an aide to Sen. Jeff Sessions, who has helped Crane present his case in Washington D.C.

“Crane, a former Marine, is a patriot who is faithfully executing his professional duties as the president of the ICE Union,” Miller said in a statement to The Daily Caller. “Mr. Leopold is evidently unaware of what a union does: in this case, representing the interests of the brave men and women of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”

As chief counsel for the AILA, Leopold normally advocates for the interests of the 12,000 lawyers who are paid to help millions of foreigners win a slice of American citizenship, complete with access to education, welfare, health-care and retirement programs.

Leopold linked his angry tweet to a news report about Crane’s March 24 call for Congress to seek the advice of his border agents while writing the still-secret immigration bill.

“When Washington discusses immigration reform it seems like business and advocacy groups are closely involved while professional immigration agents with real world experience, training and knowledge regarding the immigration matters facing our nation are not heard,” Crane wrote in a March 24 letter to Congress.

“One of our chief concerns is that our current political leadership, particularly [ICE Director John] Morton and [Homeland Security Secretary Janet] Napolitano, have repeatedly undermined our ability to enforce duly enacted immigration law,” he wrote in the letter obtained by The Daily Caller.

“Our officers have been placed in the position of having to choose between following the law or risking the loss of their jobs, pensions and means of supporting their families,” Crane added.

Leopold’s angry reaction to Crane also linked to another article Leopold wrote in August 2012 article for the Huffington Post.

Crane “engaging [is] in a pattern of open insubordination designed to thwart the president’s effort to deport dangerous criminal aliens and national security risks … [and his] knee-jerk, mutinous reaction to President Obama’s immigration enforcement policies is narrow minded, short sighted, and misses the point,” Leopold claimed.

Crane is “out of touch with its own members [and] is hell bent on maintaining the status quo — indiscriminate arrest, detention, prosecution, and deportation of immigrants,” said Leopold.

Those charges are remain valid, Leopold told TheDC.

Crane “is a bureaucrat, and bureaucrats don’t make policy,” Leopold claimed. “He’s out there and he’s criticizing the president. … He’s commenting on policy, not on union business or work conditions.”

“How is immigration policy part of union’s business? It is not,” said Leopold, whose clients include major health-care institutions and teaching hospitals who wish to import foreign medical professionals, such as nurses and doctors.

Crane declined to respond to TheDC’s requests for a comment.

In contrast to the exclusion of Crane’s members from the secret bill-writing sessions, several former AILA members are helping to write the bill, which could create numerous lucrative opportunities for Leopold’s peers.

The immigration lawyers include aides working for the leading Democrat senator, Chuck Schumer, and for Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

In the House, two of eight legislators working on a draft bill worked as immigration lawyers before being elected.

In general, immigration lawyers and their trade association have a self-interest in the law’s outcome, said Leopold, who is a past president of the AILA.

“Of course we have an interest in the law,” he said. “If you look at our [AILA] mission statement, it is to make the law better.”

The law will be made better if it allows companies to bring in more foreign workers, and if it also provides a “path to citizenship” for the unauthorized immigrants now in the country, he said.

Those changes would increase revenue for immigration lawyers who normally process visas for guest-workers and the paperwork needed by people seeking citizenship.

A group of eight senators and a a group of eight House members, backed by industry groups and a coalition of Democratic voters, are working to pass a “comprehensive” bill that would provide roughly 600,000 low-wage migrant workers each year, and also provide work-permits and citizenship to 11 million immigrants.

The progressive groups also want the 11 million immigrants to be able to bring in their healthy and sick relatives, including their siblings’ families and their elderly parents.

The two immigration bills are being developed behind closed doors, for possible release in April. Progressives and corporate lobbyists are pushing to draft measures that would ease the companies’ use of foreign workers, and ease the foreign workers’ path to citizenship and the ballot box.

But AILA members leave the association when they work on the Hill, so there is no conflict-of-interest when former AILA members try to reshape immigration law, Leopold told TheDC. “I don’t see where there would an ethical issue there.”

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