Senate Democrats join push to cut Obama’s illegal immigrant advocate

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The administration created the ICE advocate position in February 2012 to respond to criticism that the agency was too unresponsive to the needs of those it investigated or detained. It was designed as an ombudsman, and immigrant rights advocates said it has become an important tool.

“The answer in Washington for decades on illegal immigration was to throw money at ICE and enforcement and now that we are in austere times, they are cutting one of the essential programs at ICE that actually works,” said Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, Illinois Democrat. “The only hope for recourse when enforcement goes bad is to call on the ICE Public Advocate, which seems to me like an essential tool in holding ICE accountable to the public.”

But Chris Crane, president of the National ICE Council, the union representing 7,600 ICE officers and agents, called the Public Advocate office “nothing but waste, fraud and abuse” and said “we applaud Congress‘ efforts to defund the program.”

He said it makes no sense to have 20 or 30 contractors or federal employees, including some trained law enforcement officers, detailed to Washington for 30-day stints manning a hotline.

“Officers who have worked the phone line report that the No. 1 question asked by criminal detainees is, ‘When is my court date?’ — a question that can, of course, be answered locally without the additional costs of an advocacy office,” Mr. Crane said. “This program doesn’t appear to be doing anything productive for the agency and in our opinion represents everything that’s wrong with government spending.”

An ICE spokesman declined to comment on the proposal to eliminate the office, saying the agency doesn’t talk about pending legislation. A call to the public advocate office was not returned Tuesday.

The White House, though, released a statement broadly supporting the entire package.

“The administration urges the Congress to promptly pass this bipartisan compromise allowing critical government functions to operate without interruption in order to protect national security and ensure that Americans continue to receive vital services and benefits,” the White House budget office said in its statement of policy.

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