Senator Lankford Presses DHS Secretary On Agency Steps To Clarify Immigration Enforcement
WASHINGTON, DC— Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today pressed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson, during a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, on the President’s immigration enforcement ‘consequences’ comment and questioned how the Department was handling the confusion that it created for enforcement staff.
On February 27, Lankford wrote to President Obama seeking clarification on the President’s February 25 comments that there would be ‘consequences’ for federal immigration officials who continue deportations after the President’s November immigration executive actions. In early February, a federal district court in Texas issued a preliminary injunction against the President’s immigration executive overreach. Lankford requested a response by March 6, to “help ICE, other DHS employees and the American people understand what consequences they may face when they follow the law.” No response has been received from the Obama administration.
On February 17th, Secretary Johnson issued a statement saying that “The Department of Justice will appeal that temporary injunction; in the meantime, we recognize we must comply with it.”
At today’s hearing, Lankford asked Sec. Johnson how the Department is providing clarity to Americans who perform immigration enforcement.
“When you made that statement, and then a week later, the President said… ‘there will be consequences for any ICE agent that doesn’t follow my policy… I started getting comments back from ICE folks, saying ‘we don’t know which way to go. The Secretary said we’re going to follow it, but the President just said there’s consequences if we don’t follow his new policy. We’re in a bad spot.’ The question is, how are you managing it within the agency?”
Sec. Jeh Johnson responded that he would work to make sure field staffers are trained on what to do, but did not specifically answer if there would indeed be consequences for officials who defy the President’s executive action on immigration.
At an April 14th House Judiciary Committee hearing, ICE Director Sarah Saldaña was asked about the President’s comments and said, “…there are consequences for not following the rule of the employee’s status with the agency. I have a whole manual on that…whether it’s that directive, or assaulting an employee in the office, or not abiding by some other rule or policy, the range of punishment can range from anything to a verbal meeting, where you counsel that person, to ultimately what’s available to any employer and that’s termination.”
After the President’s initial ‘consequences’ comments in February, National Border Patrol Council and National ICE Council leadership confirmed that the comments created confusion and damaged an already low morale at the agency.
“Border Patrol agents, when charged with enforcing a new law or policy, want and deserve clear guidance on how to accomplish that goal. The President’s threat and unwillingness to answer Senator Lankford’s inquiries make it more difficult for agents to accomplish their mission,” said National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd in March.
National ICE Council President Chris Crane added, “While in the military, I was never asked to violate the law or the Constitution of the United States, but that’s exactly what the President is ordering ICE officers to do. To publicly threaten law enforcement officers and their families for enforcing laws enacted by Congress is an unthinkable and unprecedented act by a sitting President; all while he essentially pardons and provides benefits to millions who have violated the nation’s immigration laws.”
Lankford is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management within the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Management of the federal agencies and its workforce falls under Lankford’s Subcommittee jurisdiction.
CLICK HERE to view the video of the Q&A between Senator Lankford and Secretary Johnson.