A top Homeland Security official told Border Patrol agents the Obama administration has “no intention of deporting” many of the illegal immigrants caught trying to sneak into the country, ordering instead that they be released so they don’t clog up the courts, a leading advocate for agents testified to Congress.
Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, said the orders are a new “catch and release” policy, which he said “amounts to amnesty” because it means many illegal immigrants are never asked to leave the country.
It also suggests the Border Patrol is being ordered to break President Obama’s own enforcement priorities, which say new illegal immigrants — defined as those who came after Dec. 31, 2013 — are priorities for deportation, and are supposed to be arrested and processed.
Mr. Judd provided his testimony in written answers released Monday by the House Judiciary Committee, saying that even in some criminal cases, agents are ordered to let illegal immigrants go without ever issuing them a Notice to Appear, or NTA, which is what puts them into deportation proceedings.
Mr. Judd said they took their case directly to Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who told them not to bother.
“Deputy Secretary Mayorkas told us that the Border Patrol needs to focus its resources towards the worst of the worst. He said that by prioritizing those we choose to deport, we will help alleviate the burden on an already overburdened court system,” Mr. Judd recalled.
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“He further stated, ‘Why would we NTA those we have no intention of deporting?’ He also stated, ‘We should not place someone in deportation proceedings, when the courts already have a 3-6 year backlog,’” Mr. Judd recounted. “Since the day of this meeting, we have seen no improvements in our enforcement efforts and the morale of the Border Patrol agents is one of, if not the lowest in the entire federal government.”
Immigration agents have complained for several years that Mr. Obama has tied their hands, forcing them to release illegal immigrants who should have been easy deportation cases.
Customs and Border Protection, the agency that oversees the Border Patrol, declined to comment on Mr. Judd’s testimony.
But CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske, testifying to Congress earlier this month, brushed aside Mr. Judd’s comments, saying he didn’t believe agents were releasing people without putting them through the full process.
Mr. Kerlikowske said Mr. Judd was “probably not the most knowledgeable organization about what’s actually going on” in the field with Border Patrol agents, and he said agents that object to Mr. Obama’s policies should quit.
“Well, if you really don’t want to follow the directions of your superiors, including the president of the United States and the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, then you really do need to look for another job,” he said.
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Mr. Judd, in the written testimony released Monday, said agents have also been ordered not to interview the illegal immigrant children still streaming across the southwest border.
“This is verbal direction from direct supervisors and not a written policy. Agents are being told not to ask why minors are crossing,” he wrote.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte said the testimony undercut Mr. Obama’s own claims that he’s trying to enforce the laws on the books by setting priorities.
“Not only has President Obama sought to undermine our immigration laws at every opportunity possible, now his political appointees have implemented a ‘catch and release’ policy that contradicts the administration’s already weak enforcement priorities,” he said. “Rather than take the steps necessary to end the border surge, the Obama Administration is encouraging more to come by forcing Border Patrol agents to release unlawful immigrants into the United States with no intention of ever removing them.”