As it gets ready for further immigration initiatives, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is struggling with festering internal divisions between political appointees and career officials over how to enforce laws and handle detainees facing deportation, the Washington Post reports. Under the Obama administration, the Department of Homeland Security has shifted from the worksite raids and sweeps of George W. Bush’s presidency to deporting more criminals and creating less prisonlike detention settings. ICE is facing intensified resistance from agency middle managers and attorneys, and the union that represents immigration officers.
The internal conflict has grown public over ICE’s plans, among them to expand a risk assessment tool for detention decisions, cut down on transfers of detained immigrants, and open more “civil” detention facilities — what field directors call “soft” detention. Immigration officers say the new measures limit their enforcement efforts and the revamped lockups will compromise their safety. In June, their union took the unprecedented step of issuing a vote of no confidence in agency director John Morton and the official overseeing detention reform, Phyllis Coven. Before that, the 24 field managers who oversee detention and deportation challenged some of Morton’s recommended changes. ICE attorneys are angry that they have been instructed to drop efforts to deport some immigrants. A senior White House official said, “The call from the left is John Morton is too tough. The guy is leading the effort to remove more people from the country than ever before.”