A career attorney with top ratings at Immigration and Customs Enforcement says that she faced retaliation from superiors for refusing to drop cases pending against illegal aliens guilty of DUI, identity theft and other crimes.
Patricia Vroom, 59, made the claims in a lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court of Appeals in Arizona against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
The Daily Caller obtained a copy of the complaint.
Vroom, who has worked for ICE and its predecessor for 26 years, alleges that in Feb. 2013 she was contacted by ICE deputy director Sarah Hartnett and was “instructed to look favorably for prosecutorial discretion on immigration removal cases involving the lowest level of felony convictions for identity theft under Arizona law.”
“This was a very significant development,” the suit claims. Criminal aliens are generally considered “‘priority cases’ that should be aggressively pursued.”
But Hartnett explained to Vroom that convictions for low-level offenders “could be converted from a felony to a misdemeanor after the defendant successfully completed probation.”
Hartnett’s argument to Vroom, according to the suit, was that “since the typical alien defendant convicted under these provisions of Arizona criminal law had simply been using a fake I.D. to get and keep employment, [Vroom] and her attorneys should look carefully at the individual’s equities and consider their cases for ‘administrative closure.'”
The administrative closure designation would allow Vroom to take such cases off of the docket altogether.
Vroom cited another incident concerning an alien who falsely claimed to be a U.S. citizen and registered to vote on two occasions.
As Vroom was pursuing the case, an ICE director named Jim Stolley wrote of her in a Sept. 24, 2013 email to an ICE staffer: “[Vroom] is so wrong on so many levels that I don’t have a response right now…It is abundantly clear that, notwithstanding two years of discussing [prosecutorial discretion], priorities, and efficiencies with the field, Tucson needs comprehensive correction.”
An ICE official named Matt Downer asked Vroom how she would handle the case. She said that she would grant relief by issuing a cancellation for removal.
But Downer issued a ruling even more favorable to the alien: “dismiss with prejudice.”
That designation is significant, the lawsuit claims.
If the subject of the crime were to be charged with a crime, in the future “the Department of Homeland Security would have been forever precluded from bringing the removal case against [the subject] again in immigration court on the same, legally sound, charges.”
Vroom also claims that on Nov. 5, 2013, Downer emailed her concerning the case of an individual who was found ineligible for relief under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was started by President Obama, because of an ID theft conviction.
Unknown to Vroom at the time, top ICE and DHS officials had discussed that individual case on a conference call in August 2013.
An angry Downer emailed Vroom on Nov. 5, 2013, demanding to know why she had been unable to convince her field office director to cancel the “notice to appear” order for the alien.
Vroom also alleges in the suit that on Sept. 17 of this year, when Stolley told attorneys with the agency’s Office of the Principal Legal Advisor at a training session that “they should favorably exercise prosecutorial discretion in some cases involving low-level criminal aliens, including those who had ‘old’ DUI convictions, if they had enough equities.”
When some of the attorneys at the session pushed back against Stolley’s suggestions, he allegedly said “we don’t give a shit about that. Let it go.”
Vroom alleges that she faced sexual and age discrimination from her superiors. And during a mid-year review conducted in May 2013, ICE official Sarah Hartness told her that some had complained that Vroom was giving “a lot of push-back.”
Prior to her recent struggles, Vroom received glowing reviews and won numerous awards, including two for “District Counsel of the Year.”
Vroom’s performance rating for the year 2010-2011 was the highest — a 4.94 on a five-point scale — out of all 26 chief counsels working at ICE.
By Nov. 2013, Vroom had fallen to the bottom of the pack in terms of performance rating. She was scored a 3.53.