A small group of immigration agents is suing the Obama administration, saying that the agents should not be required to implement a program to grant work permits and halt the deportation of some young illegal immigrants.
The lawsuit alleges that the program, as well as directives issued last year that require U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to use broader discretion in immigration cases, violates a 1996 federal law that requires federal agents to put into deportation proceedings those who entered the country unlawfully.
Filed by 10 ICE officers and agents on Thursday in federal court in Dallas, the lawsuit alleges that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and ICE Director John Morton have caused harm by issuing directives that the agents say forces them to violate their oaths of office.
Starting Aug. 15, young undocumented immigrants have been able to file for a two-year waiver of deportation and a work permit under a new DHS policy called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Applicants must be under the age of 31 and have arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16, among other requirements.
Immigrants who meet the criteria but are already in deportation proceedings can apply to have their removal halted as well. The lawsuit filed Thursday is being funded by Numbers USA, a Virginia-based organization which advocates for lower immigration levels.
"We have officers who are under threat of losing their jobs and retirement if they refuse to use what we think are unlawful orders," said Chris Crane, president of the National ICE Council, a union that represents approximately 7,300 ICE employees.
Crane said that one ICE officer is currently facing a three-day suspension for trying to place a foreign national into deportation proceedings.
"No administration, Republican or Democrat, should ever order federal law enforcement agents to violate federal law," said Kris Kobach, a lawyer who is representing the agents and who wrote Arizona's controversial "papers please" law.
(c)2012 the Los Angeles Times