- The Washington Times - Monday, June 14, 2021

A group of people who lost relatives to crimes committed by illegal immigrants has demanded to meet with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, saying they deserve to be part of his decision-making as he writes new rules restricting ICE arrests and deportations.

Mr. Mayorkas has been meeting with “stakeholders” — local law enforcement, employees at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and, most controversially, immigrant rights advocates, some of whom want an end to arrests and deportations.

But Don Rosenberg, president of Advocates for Victims of Illegal Alien Crime (AVIAC), said Mr. Mayorkas has yet to meet with those who “have suffered most” from lack of enforcement: the victims themselves.

“Before you issue your revised immigration enforcement guidance for ICE, we, the stakeholders that should have been heard first, demand a personal meeting with you,” Mr. Rosenberg and fellow AVIAC leaders said in a letter sent to Mr. Mayorkas last week.

Mr. Rosenberg’s son was killed by an illegal immigrant in a traffic collision. Other AVIAC board members lost children or siblings in incidents involving illegal immigrants.

The Washington Times has reached out to the Department of Homeland Security for comment.

Mr. Mayorkas is working on new rules for ICE to govern who it targets for arrest and deportation.

The agency is operating under “interim” rules issued in February, which have slashed enforcement. The Washington Post calculated that the agency’s 6,000-member deportation force is averaging one arrest per officer every two months.

Mr. Mayorkas has said the new rules are being written with input of ICE employees themselves, and he is talking with immigrant rights activists. In many cases, though, activists are working alongside him at Homeland Security or at the White House, giving them a direct line of input.

The guidance is overdue. Mr. Mayorkas has missed his self-imposed deadline for the update. In a recent filing in federal court in Arizona, the Biden administration now says it expects the rules early next month.

Mr. Mayorkas was in Chicago and Los Angeles late last week for meetings with what was termed “stakeholders across the department’s mission sets.”

Mr. Rosenberg, who is based in California, said nobody from his group was contacted about meeting with the secretary while he was in the state.

On Friday, Mr. Mayorkas made major changes to an office the Trump administration had established inside ICE to work with victims, shifting its focus to helping illegal immigrants get visas and file complaints about ICE detention.

The office, which had been known as the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office (VOICE), is now the Victims Engagement and Services Line.

“All people, regardless of their immigration status, should be able to access victim services without fear,” Mr. Mayorkas said in announcing the change. “This administration is committed to providing a reliable source of information and guidance for all victims irrespective of their status.”

Victims’ advocates said they believe the shift will drown out their voices.

Jon Feere, who served as chief of staff at ICE during the Trump administration, said the office was able to provide information about illegal immigrant perpetrators to victims. He said that’s important to victims trying to follow court cases and make sure people are brought to justice.

He said it’s not clear whether ICE will continue that service under the VESL system.

“It was a well-functioning, apolitical, victim-centered office that did a lot of good in providing a needed resource,” Mr. Feere said. “This is a completely unnecessary change that trashes years of branding and outreach by career officials. If the Biden administration cared about victims, it would not have done this.”

Mr. Feere, now director of investigations at the Center for Immigration Studies, said with more criminal immigrants being released rather than deported by the Biden administration, there’s a pressing need for the work the VOICE office does.

But Mr. Mayorkas’s focus appears to be on the immigrants themselves.

On Monday, he announced a new plan to speed up work permits to illegal immigrants who say they were victims of crimes.

They are now able to apply for a U visa, which previously allowed a work permit later in the process. Under the new policy they can get work permission as soon as they file a full application and submit fingerprints, as long as there is no immediate indication of bad faith. Their family members also will be able to get work permits.

“These are individuals who have come forward to help law enforcement keep us all safe, but who are in need of a measure of protection for themselves as well,” Mr. Mayorkas said.

U visas are attractive to illegal immigrants because they provide a pathway to citizenship. The program is subject to fraud, with recent cases involving hundreds of bogus applications filed.

Rob Law, a former senior official at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the new policy will lead to more abuse.

“Once word gets out every illegal alien in the country will file a U petition, which is free, to get a free work permit,” he said.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide