National Security

‘The Border Is Not a Finish Line,’ ICE Union Official Says

Agency's union council President Chris Crane calls for comprehensive approach to immigration enforcement

It will take more than enforcement along the border to stop illegal immigration, according to the head of a union that represents Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

Chris Crane, president of the National ICE Council, said Wednesday on “The Laura Ingraham Show” that a comprehensive strategy is needed. This means law enforcement but also must include reversing the incentives that invite illegal immigrants, he said.

“It’s going to mostly include deterrence to people coming here, sending a message to the world that you can’t come here, and live here illegally,” he said. “You know, the border is not a finish line that, if you get past the Border Patrol, you’re home free. This [is] de facto amnesty on the interior of the United States, and that’s the problem.”

A simple step Congress could take, Crane said, is to require all businesses to use the E-Verify system to ensure that newly hired employees are legally authorized to work in the United States.

Crane said President Donald Trump had a great campaign message on immigration, which led to a sharp drop in illegal border crossings in his first year in office. But holdovers from President Barack Obama’s administration thwarted on-the-ground changes necessary to sustain that momentum, he added.

“We kept all these Obama people in ICE and the Border Patrol,” he said. “Our policies continued. Catch and release continued, and now we’re back to, basically, the same level of illegal entries we had previously. We had a moment in time there where we could have acted strongly down at the border, and we didn’t do it.”

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Congress, of course, has been paralyzed by polarization on immigration. A recent standoff in Portland, Oregon, demonstrated how divided Americans are on the issue. ICE agents contend the police refused to respond to a 911 call.

Mayor Kevin Wheeler tweeted that he did not want the police to be “engaged or sucked into a conflict, particularly from a federal agency that I believe is on the wrong track.”

“It’s a lot of administrative staff and support people that are not gun-carriers. There was no police force there to protect the people trapped inside that building.”

The mayor later insisted that he never ordered police to stand down. But he made it clear that he agrees with Portland residents who were protesting the government’s policy — now ended — of charging illegal immigrants with illegal entry even if it meant sending them to jail and separating them from children traveling with them. The mayor wrote that “Portland residents have a right to free speech and a right to demonstrate against policies they believe are unjust and immoral.”

Crane said it makes no sense to protest against ICE, which had nothing to do with implementing the policy.

“ICE wasn’t involved in that, and I think ICE, the agency, our agency, has been pretty public about that — that it was actually the Border Patrol that was doing that,” he said. “And it certainly wasn’t ICE employees about as far as you can get from the border in Portland, Oregon. So the whole protest, itself — and the mayor supported it — is just really ridiculous.”

Crane said the mayor was off base to suggest that ICE was a police force that could respond to problems on its own.

“It is a very small number of people. It is a very small number of officers,” he said. “It’s a lot of administrative staff and support people that are not gun-carriers. There was no police force there to protect the people trapped inside that building.”

Related: ICE Occupiers Leave Behind a Biohazardous Mess in Portland

Protesters blocked the doors, preventing ICE employees from leaving the building, Crane said. He said they also harassed individual employees, followed them in their vehicles, and threatened them.

“This was not just some little incident,” he said. “They took the flag. They took the American flag down from the building. That’s the kind of control that they had … The federal government, ICE, lost control of that building for 10 days.”

But Crane said he is not surprised.

“We’ve been seeing this coming for a long time … Now that President Trump has come in and tried to, you know, basically restore the rule of law, there’s a lot of pushback, I think pushback that wouldn’t have been there previously,” he said. “So the Obama administration set the stage here.”

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