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ICE Union Head Says Agents ‘Demoralized’ By Own Government

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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The leader of the association representing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents didn’t mince words about rank-and-file morale during his testimony before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security.

Chris Crane, president of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, told senators Wednesday that respect for immigration law and the officers who enforce it has been undermined by the media, partisan commentators, and even elected officials. (RELATED: Tucker Grills Baltimore City Council Member For Comparing ICE Officials To Nazis [VIDEO])

“During the last eight years, ICE employees and officers have been publicly demoralized by their own government,” he said. “Many lawmakers, pundits for political parties, and the previous Administration, have consistently made disparaging remarks about ICE employees, their mission, and the laws they are sworn to uphold.”

Measured by employee satisfaction, ICE regularly ranks among the federal government’s worst places to work. A 2016 report by bestplacestowork.org placed the agency near the very bottom of the barrel — No. 299 of 305 agencies surveyed. That was a slight improvement from 2015, when ICE was second-to-last in employee satisfaction.

Much of the discontent throughout the agency stems from a “a toxic and failed management culture,” according to Crane. The union head says field personnel have “zero faith” that agency leadership is willing or able to carry out needed reforms within the organization.

“‘Screw up and move up’ is the general term used by many ICE employees to describe their supervision from their first-line supervisors all the way up to the Director of ICE,” Crane said. “‘Screw up and move up’ obviously denoting that our worst employees are the ones promoted to supervisory and leadership positions.”

Crane also lamented what he thinks are inadequate staffing levels for Enforcement and Removal Operations, the division of ICE that is tasked with tracking down and arresting illegal immigrants subject to deportation. At 5,000 officers, the group is much too small to police at least 11 million illegal aliens estimated to be present in the U.S., Crane said.

Trump’s February executive order made hiring more ICE personnel a priority, instructing the agency to “expeditiously” hire 10,000 agents and officers, as well as additional mission support and legal staff.

Crane concluded his testimony with a warning to legislators contemplating an immigration reform bill that includes amnesty provisions, saying it would invite “a run on the border.”

“The United States must stop dangling a carrot and drawing people into this country, encouraging them to violate U.S. laws,” he said. “Interior enforcement is the key to effective border security, which up to this point has been ignored.”

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