During a hearing on the DREAM Act today, Sen. John Cornyn confronted Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano about whether her agency directed its attorneys to dismiss the deportation cases of illegal immigrants who had been convicted of crimes.
The exchange was prompted by a Houston Chronicle investigation yesterday, which revealed that DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials encouraged attorneys to seek dismissals for dozens of illegal immigrants who had been convicted of criminal acts ranging from sexual assault, kidnapping, assault, theft, drug dealing and DUIs.
“In 2010, I wrote you a letter and asked you for details with regard to this program,” said Cornyn. “In response, the Department of Homeland Security assured me that a directive instructing ICE attorneys to seek dismissals of certain classes of criminal aliens ‘does not exist.’”
The senator asked Napolitano whether she could “explain the apparent discrepancy between the existence of this memo and what the Houston Chronicle reported on Monday?”
Napolitano denied her office was involved in a cover-up, arguing that the Houston ICE field office that instructed its attorneys to seek dismissals for these illegal immigrants had “misconstrued” the orders given by the ICE headquarters in Washington, D.C.
“The plain fact of the matter is that a miscommunication occurred at the regional level in one of 26 offices,” she said.
But Napolitano’s response doesn’t completely explain the inconsistency. As the Chronicle reported, after the chief counsel of the Houston office gave the instructions to his attorneys, he forwarded the email to ICE headquarters. ICE officials replied with an email praising the chief counsel’s decision and asking him to share his strategies with other offices.
Napolitano has a lot more to answer for, and it sounds like at least one senator plans to pursue an investigation.
“When an agency not only misleads the public and Congress, but also attempts to block public information, merely citing an unfortunate ‘miscommunication’ is not a good enough explanation for the American people,” Cornyn said in a press statement after the hearing. “I intend to pursue whatever means necessary to get to the bottom of this and shine light on this wrongheaded policy.”