Ten immigration officers are suing their boss, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, saying that by preventing them from deporting young illegal immigrants under a new program rolled out last week, she’s forcing them to violate federal law.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers from across the country (none from the Northwest region) filed the suit Thursday in federal court in Dallas, a week after the Department of Homeland Security began accepting applications from young people who qualify for deportation reprieve.
At a news conference Thursday, Chris Crane, president of the ICE Agents and Officers Union and one of the plaintiffs in the suit, said by looking the other way in cases involving young illegal immigrants, officers are prohibited from carrying out their duties lawfully and are under threat of losing their jobs and retirement benefits.
Matt Chandler, DHS spokesman, said the deferred action is part of a broader policy by the agency to focus its deportation efforts on criminals, ensuring “that responsible young people, who are Americans in every way but on paper, have an opportunity to remain in the country and make their fullest contribution.”
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Good for two years, deferred action could extend to as many as 1.76 million illegal immigrants between the ages of 15 and 30, who were brought to the country unlawfully as children. There are an estimated 30,000 of them in Washington state.
To qualify for the program, they must either be enrolled in school or have graduated, and not have a felony record or pose a security or public safety threat. Those who show a need will also be eligible for work permits.
The suit against Napolitano and ICE Director John Morton was filed on behalf of the officers by NumbersUSA, a group opposed to illegal immigration. The attorney representing the plaintiffs, Kris Kobach, is the Kansas Secretary of State and author of Arizona’s tough anti-illegal immigrant law and other state.