The Obama administration on Tuesday announced a new “public advocate” charged with listening to immigrants’ concerns about its law enforcement policies — but Republicans said the position amounts to an official mouthpiece for illegal immigrants being deported.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the advocate will “serve as a point of contact for individuals, including those in immigration proceedings, NGOs and other community and advocacy groups, who have concerns, questions, recommendations or other issues they would like to raise.”
The agency — part of the Homeland Security Department — said Andrew Lorenz-Strait will be the first advocate.
But Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said that meant elevating the concerns of illegal immigrants.
“It’s outrageous that the Obama administration has appointed a taxpayer-funded activist for illegal and criminal immigrants who are detained or ordered deported. The administration all too often acts more like a lobbying firm for illegal immigrants than as an advocate for the American people,” Mr. Smith, Texas Republican, said.
Mr. Smith said that when Congress created the Homeland Security Department, it specifically created an advocate’s position for those in the legal immigration process, but it declined to create one for illegal immigrants, who the courts have regularly ruled are not entitled to the same protections as citizens and legal residents.
Even as it has set a record for deportations, the Obama administration has taken steps to try to give illegal immigrants more rights within the deportation system and has instructed prosecutors to drop cases against many of those detained as illegal immigrants.
The administration says that, with limited resources, it is trying to focus its deportation efforts on criminals and those with repeated immigration violations on their records, rather than rank-and-file illegal immigrants.