Ignoring Federal Immigration Law
Today, at a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing, Congressman Glenn Grothman (R-Glenbeulah) questioned witnesses about the crisis at our southern border and the challenges faced by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Acting ICE Director, Matthew Albence, addressed the issues immigration officers, and the agency as a whole, have faced with regard to the increasing number of sanctuary cities and local jurisdictions impeding their ability to enforce federal immigration laws they’ve sworn to uphold.
Key Takeaway: The work of federal agencies in the United States is being hindered by local jurisdictions’ refusal to follow federal law and exacerbated by rhetoric used by fanatical politicians and the media.
“Rather than allowing the witnesses to respond to questions, Democrats have used these hearings as a platform to grandstand, attack and make false accusations against President Trump, USCIS, ICE and the entire Department of Homeland Security” said Grothman. “They are not interested in solving problems by offering meaningful legislation, they use these hearings simply as an opportunity to get publicity.”
Excerpts of Grothman’s questioning
Congressman Grothman: “First of all, I’d like to thank you for all of the work you do. I’ve been down to the border myself. I know some of the challenges that you guys are dealing with, with the illegal immigrant population. I think it’s very under-appreciated. I think, given some of the stories I’ve heard, while I respect law enforcement in general, I think there are few people who have to with as much as you folks do. Mr. Albence, in your opening statement, you mentioned violent attacks on ICE offices and personnel and their families. Could you elaborate on that a little bit?”
Mr. Albence: “Certainly. We had an individual, and unfortunately they’ve been unable to be caught, that fired a weapon into one of our facilities where we had officers working. We’ve had protest groups lay our buildings under siege, threatening the individuals that work there; aggressive actions against them. Many of whom, you have to remember that many people that work for us aren’t law enforcement officers. We have attorneys, we have mission support specialists, many who have served their government for 30, 40 or 50 years and have done nothing but honorable work that entire time. I think reckless language used to denigrate them as individuals and the work they’ve done only serves to heighten, and stir into action, some people who might not be in right mind.”
Grothman: “How’s this committee’s insistence on continuing hearings on this issue impacting you?”
Albence: “Well, as I mentioned previously, DHS has made clear that this was not anything that was involved in the decision on this process. It was [US]CIS’s, it was a [US]CIS process that they made the decision on. Mr. Cuccinelli has already spoken on this is his decision. As you can understand, with an agency 20,000 strong, unfortunately, more than 400 criminal laws, things that serve as distractions, are vey difficult for us to keep focus on the very important task we have, whether it’s in regard to getting criminal aliens out of our communities, whether it’s in regard to the opioid and fentanyl epidemic, whether it’s dealing with child predators and sexual exploitation. And even with all of this, the dedicated men and women of ICE show up every day to do the best for this country and uphold the oath that they took.”
Grothman: “I’m sure the vast majority of people from my district respect what you’re trying to do and I think it’s very tragic when other people go after you. I’ll give you another question. You’ve been in the news a lot lately talking about sanctuary cities and the harm they cause American families, both citizens and immigrants. I think the issue would better be explored by the House Oversight Committee overall. Would you agree?”
Albence: “I would welcome help from anyone in Congress that would like to give it to us.”
Grothman: “Could you speak to the harms that sanctuary cities cause to us? Cause to American citizens in general?”
Albence: “Certainly, and we had our EAD testify, I believe, in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee a few weeks ago. There are, every day, right now, as we speak, convicted criminal aliens walking out the front doors of jails because we have jurisdictions that will not cooperate with us. And, unfortunately, many of these individuals will go out and commit further crimes. Those are preventable crimes. Those are preventable victims. Unfortunately, we are having more jurisdictions that are choosing not to cooperate with us. Choosing to put politics over public safety, putting their communities in harm’s way, rather than remembering why we’re here as law enforcement officers and that’s to keep every community safe as well as every person in that community.”
Grothman: “It’s just horrible. I sometimes think of it, it’s like in my area, sometimes these people who don’t like putting criminals in jail, they don’t live near where the criminals live.”
Albence: “It’s hard for me to understand sometimes where you have a jurisdiction that just arrested this exact same individual for a criminal violation, enforcing the laws that they were sworn to uphold, yet when we come to take action against that exact same individual, sometimes hours later, to enforce the laws we were sworn to uphold, we are prevented from doing so.”
Grothman: “My guess is that part of the answer is the people who prevent you from doing so live in the nicer parts of the communities, where they don’t have to worry about the crimes being committed. At a Senate Judiciary hearing last week, one of our colleagues seemed confused about detainers in sanctuary cities and that ICE was looking for local law enforcement to detain innocent people. Could you set the record straight, or maybe educate some of these Congressmen about what’s going on?”
Albence: “So, just like any other law enforcement agency, when we lodge a detainer we do so based on probable cause. Most of the individuals against whom we lodge detainers are convicted criminals. On the civil immigration enforcement side, 70 percent of the people we arrest come out of state jails and prisons. 90 percent of the people we arrest, and this has been consistent over the last decade, are a convicted criminal, have a pending criminal charge and then two smaller buckets within that 90 percent are individuals who have been deported previously and illegally re-entered, which is a federal felony and one which we prosecute aggressively, almost 7,000 times in 2018, and those that are immigration fugitives, those who have had their day in immigration court, gone through the entire core process and now have avoided complying with that order. We have more than 576,000 immigration fugitives, a number that grows every day.”
U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman is serving his third term representing Wisconsin’s 6th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.