In a Washington Times article titled “Homeland Security loses track of one million foreigners; report could hurt immigration deal”, Americans have another vivid example of exactly what “elections have consequences” truly means.  A Government Accountability Office audit revealed that Homeland “Security” lost track of 1.6 million people it knows arrived in the U.S., but have no clue as to whether these people left the country, became legal residents or are overstaying their visas.

In a response to the GAO report, DHS stated that it was creating a “working” group to try to improve its data and pointed to the success in reducing the backlog of overstay cases from 1.6 million, from a GAO report done two years ago, down to 1 million.  After the GAO report in 2011 found that DHS had “lost” 1.6 million people, it went back through the list and found that half had either left the country without the awareness of DHS or had become legal residents.

Of the remaining number, most of them DHS decided were not a security threat and didn’t need to be tracked down. There were 1,901 that were determined to be significant national security or public safety threats, of those, 266 remain unaccounted for as of March, 2013.  Given the release of more than 2000 supposedly low risk illegal immigrant detainees, some who were back in detention after DHS “discovered” additional information, as well as plenty of flak from critics in Congress and the public; confidence in DHS leadership analyses of what constitutes national security or public safety threats is hard to come by.

The confusion over the Boston Bomber suspects is a fresh example of the consequences of chaos within and between federal agencies responsible for immigration, foreign policy and national security on the domestic front.  The formation of the Department of Homeland Security was to reduce, if not eliminate entirely this very problem.

For the past twenty years, the executive branch was supposed to report to Congress the number of people who have overstayed their visas and has failed to do so because the information was not reliable enough.  DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano informed the Senate that her agency would begin reporting in December, 2013, but according to the GAO, Homeland Security officials aren’t sure what methodology they will use.  Deadlines to implement biometric airport exit programs have been repeatedly delayed, the latest from this August to sometime in early 2014.

The situation for ICE and Border Patrol boots on the ground hasn’t improved either.  In a recent ruling by District Judge Reed O’Connor, the lawsuit brought by 10 ICE agents was dismissed.  The judge acknowledged that the Obama administration likely violated the law by ordering ICE and Border personnel not to arrest illegal immigrants they encountered, but that federal employment law meant that his court did not have jurisdiction.  The ICE agents involved are weighing appealing the ruling.

Incredibly, during an April 23, 2013 Senate judiciary hearing, Senator Jeff Sessions questioned DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano on the low morale of ICE employees, citing a December, 2012 survey of federal agencies finding that morale of ICE employees had plummeted to 279th of 291 agencies. In acknowledging her awareness of the morale issues, she went on to say that it’s not just at ICE; it’s within the entire department (of Homeland Security).

This, after the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council and its local constituencies acted unanimously on behalf of ICE officers and employees from the ICE office of Enforcement and Removal Operations to cast a vote of No Confidence in ICE Director John Morton and Assistant Director of the ICE office of Detention Policy and Planning, Phyllis Coven in June, 2010.  Adding insult to injury, in 2011, Director John Morton issued the infamous “prosecutorial discretion” memorandum prohibiting ICE officers from arresting illegal immigrants for illegal entry or overstaying their visas.

In February, 2013, the ICE employee union president, Chris Crane testified in the Senate Judiciary committee stating:  “I think most Americans assume that ICE agents and officers are empowered by the government to enforce the law.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  With 11 million illegal aliens in the U.S., ICE agents are now prohibited from arresting illegal aliens solely on charges of illegal entry or VISA overstay – the two most frequently violated sections of U.S. immigration law.”

Given the legalization of illegal immigrants with the promise of border enforcement later during the Reagan administration, many of the arguments of being “compassionate”, a nation of immigrants and so on being recycled by many of the same groups and politicians; the abject, even willful failure to establish a lawful, orderly and just immigration system will not be forgotten.

In spite of the cost to their careers, families, and personal lives, many of those on the front lines in the immigration and border chaos are warning fellow Americans and the few politicians who will listen of the negative consequences to not just American citizens, but to immigrants as well, of the currently proposed immigration legislation.

The immigration issue, along with the scandals involving the IRS, the NSA and the Justice Department, among others, brings to mind two very pointed quotes by Justice Louis Brandeis (1856-1941):

  • Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.
    • Dissenting, Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438 (1928).
  • Decency, security, and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that in the administration of the criminal law the end justifies the means — to declare that the government may commit crimes in order to secure the conviction of a private criminal — would bring terrible retribution. Against that pernicious doctrine this court should resolutely set its face.
    • Dissenting, Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438 (1928).

Since we in the law enforcement community are the tip of the spear of the government, the second quote is worthy to note, especially for those frustrated being held to a higher standard than politicians, a comment observed on a police forum. Though this quote refers specifically to criminal law and those in law enforcement, it is equally applicable to those holding public office, whether elected or appointed.  Put bluntly, the greater the contrast between the cavalier attitude towards the law by politicians and the higher standards of conduct by the policing profession may help direct the public ire in the direction it needs to go, rather than at the point of the spear that our profession represents.

Justice Brandeis gave further excellent advice to citizens, especially in light of candidates being selected to run for the midterm elections:

  • What I have desired to do is to make the people of Boston realize that the most important office, and the one which all of us can and should fill, is that of private citizen. The duties of the office of private citizen cannot under a republican form of government be neglected without serious injury to the public.
    • Statement to a reporter in the Boston Record, 14 April 1903

The most important duty of a private citizen is to use great care in deciding for whom their vote is cast.  We can easily look to both political parties and across the country to see the effects of the neglect of that most important duty.

For more information:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/jul/30/homeland-security-loses-track-of-1-million-foreign/?page=2

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/aug/1/ice-agents-weigh-appeal-in-deportation-policy-figh/

http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/21/politics/immigration-detainees

http://cnsnews.com/news/article/napolitano-poor-morale-it-s-not-just-ice-it-s-throughout-department

Juli Adcock began her career in law enforcement with the Escambia County Florida Sheriff’s Office as a patrol deputy until she was injured in a riot situation. She transferred to Judicial Security and retired in 1998. Juli pursued career advancement training with an emphasis on officer survival, interviews and interrogation. She worked with a local Rape Crisis Center and in victim’s advocacy, complementing her college course work in psychology. She currently resides in New Mexico and is an instructor with The Appleseed Project (www.appleseedinfo.org). The Appleseed Project is a rifle marksmanship clinic teaching the fundamentals of firing an accurate round downrange every 3 to 4 seconds, out to 500 yards, as well as American history. She has trained military personnel at White Sands Missile Range who are certifying as Squad Designated Marksmen. Juli instructs basic handgun skills to new gun owners in preparation for responsible personal gun ownership. She also writes for The Badge Guys (www.thebadgeguys.com).  She can be reached at [email protected] or through Law Enforcement Today