AFL-CIO, Senate Snub ICE Employee Union on Immigration Bill

richard-trumka-jobswithjusticeThe AFL-CIO normally is quick to defend the interests of its 57 member unions. But the Washington, D.C.-based labor federation seems happy to make an exception in the case of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Council. And the reason lies with the union’s objections to the new Senate proposal to grant amnesty to virtually all 11 million or more illegal immigrants and expand work visa availability. In its current form, argue council officials, the measure would hamstring ICE agents from protecting the public from dangerous criminals. Toward that end, Council President Chris Crane and nine other members last August filed suit against three top immigration officials in their carrying out of a June executive order by President Obama. And they’re still getting the cold shoulder, especially from their own AFL-CIO. So, in fact, are a couple of other AFL-CIO enforcement unions.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE)-affiliated National ICE Council, based in Washington, D.C., represents about 7,600 of the more than 20,000 officers and employees of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which in turn is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Its members, spread throughout America and its territories, aren’t Border Patrol agents – the latter have their own union – but they know first-hand how tense and dangerous guarding customs entry points and the interior can be. ICE agents are responsible for finding and deporting drug smugglers, human traffickers and other criminals, not to mention more benign types who have overstayed a visa time limit. Yet the Obama administration and certain members of Congress, in their haste to create amnesty and citizenship for persons illegally here, appear to be putting their hands over their ears in response to council complaints about the new 844-page Senate immigration bill (recently expanded to 867 pages), called the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S.744). Worse yet, the AFL-CIO, which played no small role in shaping this bill, also has been ignoring the council.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (in photo) and other officials of the labor federation would like nothing more than for the union to disappear from view until the bill is passed. They know the ICE Council represents a potential roadblock to mass immigration promotion of the sort that the AFL-CIO has been working with business and ethnic separatist groups for at least a dozen years to achieve. Back in February 2000, while under the helm of John Sweeney, the AFL-CIO Executive Council, at a meeting in New Orleans, unanimously approved a statement in support of amnesty to persons living and working in this country here illegally. Part of its declaration read:

We strongly believe employer sanctions, as a nationwide policy applied to all workplaces, has failed and should be eliminated. It should be replaced with an alternative policy to reduce undocumented immigration and prevent employer abuse. Any new policy must meet the following principles: 1) it must seek to prevent employer discrimination against people who look or sound foreign; 2) it must allow workers to pursue legal remedies, including supporting a union, regardless of immigration status; and 3) it must avoid unfairly targeting immigrant workers of a particular nationality.

The AFL-CIO, palpably, was recommending that immigration policy must legalize the resident status of any and all illegal (“undocumented”) workers. Moreover, it must avoid deportation as an option, especially if supposedly motivated by racial or ethnic discrimination. The labor federation’s way of fixing our “broken” system, in other words, was to institute policies that would break it for real – talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy!

The AFL-CIO’s misguided advocacy has continued unabated. How much so? Last June 15, President Obama announced that his administration was temporarily halting deportations of adult illegal immigrants under age 30 who had come to the U.S. as minors. These, in essence, were beneficiaries of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, a piece of legislation which in some form has been floating around Congress since 2001 but has yet to pass. Rather than take Obama to task for brazenly circumventing federal law, AFL-CIO President Trumka held a press conference to praise him. For sentimental measure, he had a group of immigrant students standing beside him. The DREAM Act, which in current form lacks even an age cap, is one of the main features of the new immigration bill drafted by eight senators (“the Gang of Eight”) – four Democrats and four Republicans – with no open hearings or debate.

A number of organizations have sharply criticized the content of the immigration bill, not to mention the furtive manner in which it was rushed through the Senate. Among the critics is the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council. Last August, two months after President Obama’s surprise announcement, ICE Council President Chris Crane, two union vice-presidents and seven other union members filed suit against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and two key DHS agency heads, ICE Director John Morton and U.S. Customs and Immigration Services Director Alejandra Mayorkas. The suit claimed that Obama had overstepped his constitutional authority by amending the law without congressional consent. As a result, President Obama and the defendants are making it much harder for ICE agents to do their job. Crane noted that under normal circumstances, agents conducting immigration sweeps at workplaces or other locations have the authority to initiate deportation proceedings against persons who are unable to prove they were in the U.S. legally. Obama, he argues, effectively forced agents to accept at face value any claim of eligibility for amnesty under the DREAM Act.

The accompanying press release stated:

The Directive and the earlier memorandum instruct ICE officers to refrain from placing certain aliens who are unlawfully present in the United States into removal proceedings. The Directive further instructs officers to take actions to facilitate the granting of deferred actions to aliens who are unlawfully present in the United States. The Directive, entitled ‘Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion with respect to Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children,’ also directs DHS personnel to grant employment authorization to certain beneficiaries of the Directive.

Representing the plaintiffs is Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and an Arlington, Va.-based immigration restriction organization, Numbers USA. Kobach explained: “The Directive is an extension of the DREAM Act, which was rejected by Congress, and aims to grant an amnesty to 1.7 million illegal aliens. It violates federal immigration laws that require certain aliens to be placed in removal proceedings; it violates the Administrative Procedure Act; and it encroaches upon the legislative powers of Congress as defined in Article I of the United States Constitution.” Numbers USA President Roy Beck also was adamant. “Congress passes laws to determine how many and which citizens of other countries are allowed to enter U.S. job markets to compete with American workers,” said Beck. “Fortunately during this long period of high unemployment, Congress has refused to add further competition through amnesties that would give millions of illegal aliens access to the U.S. job market. The Napolitano amnesty directive does the opposite. If immigration agents are not allowed to enforce the laws as decided by Congress, the wages and jobs of American workers are at risk.”

Crane, for his part, has remained vocal. This past January 30, Crane bitterly complained that the National ICE Council and other immigration-related law enforcement unions were being “shunned” by AFL-CIO President Trumka and his people. “It’s shocking,” said Crane. “The last time I checked, all of the heavy hitters within immigration enforcement to include ICE, the U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services were all excluded by the AFL-CIO from policy planning and input – and we’re all AFL-CIO affiliates. With most of the nation’s immigration enforcement experts at his fingertips, to include immigration officers, agents and attorneys, Trumka has refused our union input on comprehensive immigration reform…He doesn’t speak on behalf of our workers.”

Crane’s words contravened a statement Trumka had made the previous day. “Unions did have at one point some differences on the issue, but the entire labor movement is entirely behind this now,” said Trumka. “We’ll be at the table the whole time this thing is being developed to make sure it meets the needs of workers.” Crane, understandably, was having none of this. He said that the AFL-CIO and the Obama administration, in their demand for consensus (or at least the illusion of it), are willfully deaf to appeals from the National ICE Council and other immigration-related law enforcement unions. Crane recalled:

We went directly to the Obama administration as well as the AFL-CIO with real matters of life and death for unionized American law enforcement officers and they shunned us. We’re talking about 50,000 AFL-CIO members. We asked both the AFL-CIO and President Obama for help with corruption within our respective federal law enforcement agencies, climbing officer suicide rates, assaults against officers, and perhaps most alarming, offenses against pregnant female employees. Following the White House meeting, the Obama administration cut us off. Cecelia Munoz (director of the White House Domestic Policy Council) refuses to correspond with us, and President Trumka hasn’t so much as made one public comment fighting for the safety of AFL-CIO federal law enforcement officers. He just doesn’t speak on behalf of our union workers.

The 844-page immigration bill that the Senate “Gang of Eight” unveiled during the wee hours of Wednesday, April 17 reflected this lack of input. As Union Corruption Update explained at length the following day, the measure’s reforms would exacerbate the very Third World immigration population explosion that has led to criticism of our allegedly “broken” system. And the reason why the AFL-CIO has chosen to ignore critical comments from its immigration-related member unions is because the labor federation is on board with business and ethnic interests who promote a post-American sensibility. Trumka and his people at top are adamant about increasing immigration and legalizing the status of persons illegally here. In this interest group triumvirate, each would benefit. Unions would get more members; businesses, especially those aligned with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, would get more cheap labor; and ethnic (especially Hispanic) pressure groups would get more of their people out in the streets and in the voting booths, all the better to expand their political influence. The last thing the AFL-CIO has needed to hear during these last few months from its own affiliates is that mass immigration has real downsides.

It’s not as if the ICE’s Crane hadn’t approached any lawmakers who created the bill. In a letter to Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., he asked that the measure not be introduced until certain provisions affecting ICE operations were resolved. Specifically, Crane identified eight problems areas, including “the lack of ICE resources,” “DHS directives that release dangerous criminal aliens back into our communities,” “the need for biometric exit/entry,” “the administration’s dangerous abuse of prosecutorial discretion” and “our inability to make street arrests.” Crane wrote, “If these issues are not resolved, I have no doubt – based on my law enforcement experience – that this proposal would further hamstring the ability of our officers to protect the public.” Rubio, along with seven other senators, filed the bill anyway. Rubio spokesman Alex Conant, no doubt well-coached, justified his boss’ diffidence as promoting public transparency. “By introducing the bill,” Conant said, “we have actually made it easier for more people to review it, comment on it, and suggest changes to it before the first vote is taken.” Crane noted he’s not the only dissenting voice to be marginalized. In a recent interview, he emphasized that at one point border sheriffs and law enforcement officers from around the nation came to Washington, only to find their meetings ignored by “Gang of Eight” members.

At least the Senate Judiciary Committee held a belated hearing on Tuesday, April 23, six days after introduction. Not every senator was on board with the plan. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano wagged her finger at the National ICE union in her testimony. “There are tensions with union leadership, unfortunately,” she stated. “Here’s what I expect as a former prosecutor and attorney general: that is that law enforcement agents will enforce the law in accordance with the guidance they are given [by] their superiors.” But Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., wasn’t about to let her off the hook. He fired back: “I have never heard of situation in which a group of law officers sued their supervisor, and you, for blocking them from following the law. They weren’t complaining about pay, benefits, working conditions – they were saying that their very oath they took to enforce the law is being blocked by rules and regulations and policies established from on high, and that this is undermining their ability to do what they are sworn to do.”

Sen. Sessions received outside support the following day in the form of U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, the presiding judge in the ICE union lawsuit against the DHS. In a procedural move, Judge O’Connor ruled that Secretary Napolitano does not have the authority to refuse to enforce laws that require illegal immigrants to face deportation. He asked the department and the ICE union to offer additional arguments before he issues a decision on the constitutionality of President Obama’s “deferred action on childhood arrivals” program, which effectively has functioned as stealth DREAM Act.

None of this apparently matters to organized labor or its pressure group allies in the worlds of business and ethnic advocacy. Union leaders are determined to secure passage of the Senate legislation with as little dissent as possible. They see immigration law enforcement officers as impediments to amnesty, or as euphemism would have it, “comprehensive reofrm.” The National ICE Council’s Crane has seen the snubs up close. In a recent interview with The Daily Caller, he stated: “The AFL-CIO, La Raza and the Chamber of Commerce wrote this. Law enforcement officers had absolutely no part in doing this.” Indeed, his own bosses at ICE were politically consumed during the months leading up to the 2012 elections. Crane recalled:

These are ICE headquarters managers in a law enforcement agency saying, ‘We’ve got so many days before the election to get these pro-legalization, pro-amnesty, pro-illegal immigrant policies out there, and we’ve got to get it done and we’ve got to get it done now.’ I mean they literally had countdown to the election, to get these policies put in place, these policies that would be publicly favorable during the election period. So we absolutely know that this is all about politics.

Crane, in fact, tried to bring such issues up at the April 18 press conference in the basement of the Senate’s Dirksen Office Building announcing the immigration bill, but was ejected for his trouble. Three times he asked Senator Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., about the implications of the bill for law enforcement. Each time Schumer ignored him. After the final rebuke, Capitol security guards removed Crane from the premises.

Thirty years ago, during congressional debate over what eventually became the first amnesty for persons illegally here, the AFL-CIO still maintained its historical opposition to mass immigration. The labor federation, then led by Lane Kirkland, knew that legalizing the status of such workers, most of them from Mexico, would have undercut wages and benefits of union members. Now the federation doesn’t even make a pretense of wanting to deport them. Yet at least one would think President Richard Trumka and other AFL-CIO leaders are willing to entertain differences of opinion on the issue within their ranks. So far, that’s been anything but the case. A more blatant lack of accountability to one’s own people would be hard to imagine.

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