The split between the labor organization representing immigration officers and the Trump administration has swollen, with a sharp agency rebuttal to union complaints made in a letter to the president.
In his letter to President Trump in November, National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council President Chris Crane called “what’s happening” at ICE “an embarrassment to the American people, and a stab in the back to the men and women of law enforcement who we know you support wholeheartedly.”
While Crane praised Trump individually — “Your courage on immigration enforcement in the face of public criticism and pressure is like nothing I have ever seen from any political leader” — the letter was an unusual display of disgust with leadership selected by the president, whom the union had supported in the 2016 election.
The National ICE Council and the National Border Patrol Council had endorsed Trump, even as the American Federation of Government Employees and the AFL-CIO, their parent bodies, had vigorously opposed him and immigration policies they said were based on racism, Islamophobia and fear.
In the administration’s most detailed rebuttal of Crane, ICE on Thursday attacked his claims of “corruption and gross mismanagement” and “grossly incompetent leadership” as “baseless” and “factually inaccurate.”
Crane claimed ICE officers are “hated by their own leadership” and are “treated so horribly by their own agency.” He suggested ICE acting director Thomas D. Homan, a career employee and Trump’s pick to lead the agency, should be fired for “spending millions every year to provide free vehicles and gas to hundreds of ICE managers for the sole purpose of driving between home and work each day.”
ICE fired back.
“Facts don’t lie,” Liz Johnson, an agency spokeswoman, told the Federal Insider in an email sprinkled with yellow highlights for emphasis. “[C]ontrary to baseless claims about the culture and management at ICE, the government-wide Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey shows that ICE employee satisfaction and engagement have increased significantly during Tom Homan’s tenure.”
According to the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government, a Partnership for Public Service report based on the survey, ICE scores began a steep increase in 2015 under then-President Barack Obama and reached their highest point under Trump and Homan last year.
Regarding ICE vehicles, Johnson said Crane’s assertions are “factually inaccurate since no one at ICE has the authority to approve … home-to-work authorization — that authority lies solely with DHS,” the Department of Homeland Security, and “70 percent of those vehicles assigned in the field are provided to deportation officers.” Law enforcement supervisors, she added, “also have access to government vehicles for purposes of operational efficiency and readiness.”
Rejecting Crane’s charge that ICE has “prevented the issuance of Tasers to our officers in the field,” Johnson said, “Homan has fought for years to allow the issuance of Tasers to ICE officers, believing they deserve an intermediate-level tool to defend themselves and protect public safety.”
On Crane’s contention that “ICE Officers are required to give seven days notice to city officials” and get their permission before making arrests, Johnson said, “At no time has ICE ever been required to provide seven-day notice or receive permission from a jurisdiction to perform enforcement actions.”
Crane’s letter complained that attempts to meet with Trump were “simply ignored,” leading agency managers to laugh at the union and say “Trump used you and threw you away like trash when he was done with you.”
To that point, the president plans to seek a pay freeze for members of the ICE and federal employees generally, while cutting domestic security programs, according to a summary of administration budget documents released by Sen. Claire McCaskill (Mo.), the ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Crane did not respond to a request for comment on ICE’s response to his charges.
On JIC Report, a website for ICE employees, Crane said Trump called the union president after receiving the letter “and asked a lot of questions to which I gave him straight answers.”
But Trump apparently has no plans to dump Homan. The president sent Homan’s nomination to the Senate the day after Crane issued his letter.
The White House, spokesman Raj Shah said Saturday, is “without hesitation behind Tom Homan.”