john morton

John Morton of DHS/ICE

John Morton is current Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Last modified Mar 13, 2011
Discussed in (click each link for the full post):

DOJ investigation claims Sheriff Joe Arpaio engaged in "unconstitutional policing" (immigration, Arizona, Maricopa County) - 12/15/11

The Department of Justice's politically-motivated quasi-witchhunt of Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio has concluded with a report claiming that Arpaio engaged in "unconstitutional policing" and unreasonably targeted Latinos.

DHS makes Secure Communities nationwide, no opt-out (so far). Lofgren, ACLU, NAKASEC, FIRM, CHIRLA, ICIRR, MIRA, Frank Sharry, NIF outraged. - 08/08/11

From this comes some good news for a change:

The Department of Homeland Security notified 39 governors Friday that the fingerprint-sharing program did not need their approval to operate in their states, and said it had voided agreements they had signed to authorize their states' participation, according to a copy of the letter.

DHS officials misled about backdoor amnesty for illegal aliens (Houston, John Morton) - 06/27/11

From this:

Homeland Security officials misled the public and Congress last year in an effort to downplay a wave of immigration case dismissals in Houston and other cities amid accusations that they had created a "back-door amnesty," newly released records show.

Senators: ICE doing selective enforcement, not asking for more resources - 10/27/10

A group of senators [1] recently sent a letter to Janet Napolitano of the Department of Homeland Security pointing out that her version of immigration enforcement is selective and also noting that the DHS hasn't asked for more resources to do their job.

Here's part of the letter (link):

Recently, media reports have revealed that pending removal proceedings are being dismissed in record numbers. That sharp increase in dismissals is the result of a directive from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director (John Morton) to all ICE attorneys to review pending cases and seek dismissal if the cases do not involve [serious] offenders...

Though the reports focused only on cases pending before Houston immigration judges, our understanding is that the ICE directive applies nationwide. Numerous criminal aliens are being released into society and are having proceedings terminated simply because ICE has decided that such cases do not fit within the Department’s chosen enforcement priorities...

...The ICE directive, along with other recently announced detention and removal policies, raises serious questions about your Department’s commitment to enforce the immigration laws. It appears that your Department is enforcing the law based on criteria it arbitrarily chose, with complete disregard for the enforcement laws created by Congress. The repercussions of this decision extend beyond removal proceedings, because it discourages officers from even initiating new removal proceedings if they believe the case ultimately will be dismissed based on the new directive.

Even more disturbing is the fact that your Department has chosen to dismiss cases against criminal aliens, including aliens who have committed crimes involving moral turpitude, crimes of violence, assault, theft, fraud, drug offenses, driving under the influence, and illegal entry.

To be sure, ICE has cited a lack of resources as one of the reasons for its prioritization of cases and for its selective enforcement. But to date, we have not seen any efforts by ICE, your Department, or the Administration to request an increase in ICE funding sufficient to address staffing shortages, detention capacity, and coordination of enforcement efforts nationwide to achieve a streamlined and robust immigration removal system...

They want a list of the cases that the DHS has dismissed, and they also want to know how much the DHS is going to need to do their job.

A DHS spokesman responds (link):

"The idea that DHS is engaged in 'selective enforcement' couldn't be further from the truth," [spokesman Matt Chandler] said. "In fact, this administration has fundamentally changed the way the federal government approaches immigration enforcement, doing more to keep criminal aliens who are threats to public safety - including murderers, rapists and child molesters - off our streets than ever before."

That's a good thing, but at the same time DHS is sending the message that illegal aliens are more or less home free as long as they avoid committing serious crimes.

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[1] Signers: John Cornyn, Jeff Sessions, Jon Kyl, Orrin Hatch, Chuck Grassley, Lindsey Graham, and Tom Coburn

New DHS policies are de facto amnesty; John Morton thinks ICE has enough money - 09/10/10

The Department of Homeland Security - specifically their Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency headed by John Morton - has instituted new policies that amount to a form of a de facto amnesty. And, all of this has been done without anywhere near the outcry that would occur from an amnesty proposal in Congress. Granted, these policies don't include a "pathway to citizenship" and the other perks that would be included in comprehensive immigration reform. However, they'll let most illegal aliens off the hook for the indefinite future and - just like a real amnesty - that will probably encourage more people to come here illegally. The Obama administration probably considers this a stop-gap measure and after the next election they'll begin a push for a de jure amnesty.

A round-up of the changes is provided by Pro Publica here:

* Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton ordered agency officials on Aug. 20 to begin dismissing deportation cases against people who haven't committed serious crimes and have credible immigration applications pending.

* A proposed directive from Morton posted on ICE's website for public comment last month would generally prohibit police from using misdemeanor traffic stops to send people to ICE. Traffic stops have led to increased deportations in recent years, according to Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank whose research supports tighter enforcement.

The directive said exceptions would be made in certain cases, such as when immigrants have serious criminal records.

* ICE officers have been told to "exercise discretion" when deciding whether to detain "long-time lawful permanent residents, juveniles, the immediate family members of U.S. citizens, veterans, members of the armed forces and their families, and others with illnesses or special circumstances," Daniel Ragsdale, ICE executive associate director of management, testified July 1 in the administration's lawsuit to block Arizona's controversial immigration law. The law requires police officers to determine the immigration status of suspects stopped for another offense if there was a "reasonable suspicion" they are in the USA illegally. A U.S. district judge has held up the provision pending review.

* A draft memo from ICE's sister agency, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, to Morton discussed ways the administration could adjust regulations so certain groups, such as college students and the spouses of military personnel, could legalize their status or at least avoid deportation if Congress doesn't pass comprehensive immigration reform. USCIS rules on applications for visas, work permits and citizenship. USCIS spokesman Christopher Bentley said the memo was intended to stimulate brainstorming on how to legalize immigrants if new laws aren't passed.

The same group has an interview with John Morton here. For one of them he sounds almost exactly like Michael Chertoff:

If your question is what about the people who are not priorities for the agency, the answer is we're going to continue to enforce the law. We're not giving broad classes of people amnesty or a pass from law enforcement. But we are recognizing that, hey, we only have a limited ability to enforce the law in terms of resources and when we go about saying, 'How should we target enforcement resources?', we're going to focus on three areas overall. And those are criminal offenders, recent entrants and people who game the system.

And, instead of railing at Congress and demanding higher funding, he thinks they have all the money they need:

Our overall budget at the agency is at an all-time high. We are detaining large numbers of people. Our detention budget has not gone down. In fact, it's grown tremendously over the past couple of years... (Because of enormous deficits) there are hard choices that have to be wrestled with every day and ICE continues to be funded at a very high level by Congress.

DHS letting deportable illegal aliens go if they could get green card (John Morton) - 08/27/10

From this:

In a new and more lenient policy, the head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has instructed the agency's legal office to stop the deportation proceedings of foreign nationals who may now be eligible for a green card.

South Florida immigration attorneys and activists said the move is the first solid evidence of more tolerance by ICE toward some foreign nationals facing removal to their homelands.

Affected are possibly tens of thousands who are married or related to a U.S. citizen or a legal resident who has filed a petition for them. The immigrants who will benefit must also not have a criminal conviction.

This policy was disclosed via a memo from John Morton, head of ICE; in the memo he wrote: "Where there is an underlying application or petition and ICE determines . . . that a non-detained individual appears eligible for relief from removal, [its attorneys] should promptly move to dismiss proceedings." The new policy is cheered in the article by Cheryl Little of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center. In the past, some or most of those covered by the new policy would be deported, but with the new "backdoor amnesty" push from the DHS, they'll get to stay.

To a very, very small extent policies like this are reasonable: ICE says they want to concentrate on the criminals first and points out that they can only deport 400,000 people per year. To a far greater extent, this is indeed a backdoor amnesty and potential illegal aliens in foreign countries will no doubt rush to take advantage of it.

The way to block things like this would have been to do things like really press Janet Napolitano on such policies, as I suggested over nine months ago. No one in the mainstream media is going to really press Obama administration officials, and citizens aren't filling the gap.

John Morton of ICE misleads, says he and Obama don't support amnesty - 08/12/10

Back in 2007, former Department of Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff said that the DHS wasn't "in the business of doing amnesty". Now, the head of the DHS' Immigrations and Custom Enforcement ("ICE") is making similarly false claims.

ICE memo: deport the criminals first. Will they greatly reduce deporting non-criminals? - 08/09/10

From this:

New guidance telling U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to focus on apprehending terrorists and criminals has many of ICE's rank-and-file agents wondering who then is responsible for tracking down and detaining the millions of other illegal border-crossers and fugitive aliens now in the country.

The new guidelines are outlined in a June 29 memo from Assistant Secretary John Morton, who heads the agency, to all ICE employees regarding the apprehension, detention and removal of illegal immigrants, noting that the agency "only has resources to remove approximately 400,000 aliens per year, less than 4 percent of the estimated illegal-alien population in the United States."

...More than a dozen veteran ICE agents told The Washington Times in the past week that the carefully worded memo had field agents wondering whether they would be detaining illegal border-crossers in the future and whether those apprehended by other law enforcement agencies would be turned over to ICE for eventual deportation.

Related: a John Morton quote about ICE refusing to deport illegal alien students.

ICE refusing to deport illegal alien students (John Morton, DREAM Act) - 08/09/10

Julia Preston of the New York Times offers this:

The Obama administration, while deporting a record number of immigrants convicted of crimes, is sparing one group of illegal immigrants from expulsion: students who came to the United States without papers when they were children.

In case after case where immigrant students were identified by federal agents as being in the country illegally, the students were released from detention and their deportations were suspended or canceled, lawyers and immigrant advocates said. Officials have even declined to deport students who openly declared their illegal status in public protests...

"In a world of limited resources, our time is better spent on someone who is here unlawfully and is committing crimes in the neighborhood," John Morton, the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in an interview. "As opposed to someone who came to this country as a juvenile and spent the vast majority of their life here."

The article also claims that there are 700,000 illegal aliens who'd be covered by the DREAM Act, an amnesty that would allow current or former illegal aliens to take college educations away from needy American citizens. And, it shouldn't be necessary to point out that by refusing to deport illegal alien college students DHS is sending a very strong welcoming message to those in foreign countries who might otherwise think twice about bringing their children here illegally.

Related: ICE memo: deport the criminals first. Will they greatly reduce deporting non-criminals?

ICE agents issue "Vote of No Confidence" on John Morton, Phyllis Coven (politicizing ICE, pushing amnesty) - 08/06/10

From this:

In an unprecedented move within the Department of Homeland Security, the detention and removal officers and agents responsible for and sworn to enforcing our nation's immigration laws issued an exhaustive, scathing letter simply titled "VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE IN ICE DIRECTOR JOHN MORTON AND ODPP ASSISTANT DIRECTOR PHYLLIS COVEN" on June 11, 2010. The letter, acquired through sources, provides a litany of examples of how ICE's mission is being skewed towards supporting an unflinching goal of amnesty by refusing to allow agents to do their job; allowing criminal aliens to roam free; depleting resources for key enforcement initiatives that preceded this administration; and misrepresenting facts and programs, demeaning the extent of the criminal alien problem and geared to support amnesty.

PDF of the letter at the link.

Harold Hurtt - now local coordinator for ICE - is strong sanctuary city supporter - 06/25/10

From this:

Harold Hurtt, a former police chief in Houston and Phoenix, has been hired as the director for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Office of State and Local Coordination. Starting July 6, Hurtt will supervise outreach and communication between ICE, local law enforcement agencies, tribal leaders and representatives from non-governmental organizations...

...as a police chief, Hurtt was a supporter of (sanctuary cities) policies, by which illegal immigrants who don't commit crimes can live without fear of exposure or detainment because police don't check for immigration papers.

He also, during his tenure as Houston police chief, criticized ICE's key program (287g) that draws on local law enforcement's support.

At the link, ICE chief John Morton praises him, and it's pointed out that he supports the jail-side part of 287g, even if he doesn't support the sweeps part (as practiced by Joe Arpaio).

Hurtt was mentioned here in 2005's "Houston reaffirms illegal aliens sanctuary policy". As I said in that post, 9/11 Commission member John Lehman said in 2004:

"The terrorists know" which cities have such policies.

UPDATE: See also the quotes in this post about Jocelyn Fong, and Debbie Schlussel rushes to remind us that she predicted he'd be hired in March: link.

John Morton of ICE: let illegal alien crime suspects go free pending conviction? - 06/22/10

John Morton - head of ICE, part of the Department of Homeland Security - has changed the name of "Detention and Removal Operations" into "Enforcement and Removal Operations", de-emphasizing the detention part of that operation.

John Morton: ICE might not process illegal aliens arrested under Arizona immigration law - 05/20/10

John Morton, the Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary who heads ICE, visited Chicago yesterday and promised to ramp up immigration enforcement. Then, he said this (link):

Echoing comments by President Barack Obama and others in the administration, Morton said that Arizona's new law targeting illegal immigration is not "good government." The law makes it a crime to be in the state illegally and requires police to check suspects for immigration paperwork.

Morton said his agency will not necessarily process illegal immigrants referred to them by Arizona officials. The best way to reduce illegal immigration is through a comprehensive federal approach, not a patchwork of state laws, he said.

"I don't think the Arizona law, or laws like it, are the solution," Morton said.

Far-left wants John Morton fired over immigration quotas memo (also want little or no enforcement) - 03/31/10

Yesterday, Frank Sharry of America's Voice offered "ICE Out of Control: Time to Rein in Rogue Agency and Pass Immigration Reform" [1], showing once again how little use those who support comprehensive immigration reform have for immigration enforcement. One of the selling features of "reform" is increased enforcement, yet "reform" would give even more power to those like Sharry who advocate against enforcement:

Today, a group of grassroots leaders are demanding that the Obama Administration fire John Morton, the head of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) within the Department of Homeland Security.

Deepak Bhargava of the (Center for Community Change), a lead organizer of the immigration rally in Washington, D.C. on March 21st and a leader of FIRM (Fair Immigration Reform Movement), had this to say at today’s press conference:

"This agency has gone rogue and is operating in clear opposition to the direction President Obama has set."

What gives? It seems the stated priorities of President Obama may not be in sync with the cowboy tactics of ICE agents in the field.

Bear in mind that he said that based on a memo that ICE frantically walked back.

Sharry also states, "Look, we’re not against enforcing immigration laws" when his record and that of other "reform" supporters say otherwise.

[1] huffingtonpost.com/frank-sharry/ice-out-of-control-time-t_b_519201.html

John Morton immigration detention reforms: scaling it back - 01/26/10

John Morton of the Department of Homeland Security spoke at the Migration Policy Institute yesterday about reforms he's making concerning immigration detention. The Immigration Policy Center has a report here, and their summary of his upcoming reforms includes:

* [...centralizing] facilities [which] would be managed at the top by federal employees subject to clear, transparent, and fully implemented detention standards (though Morton told the crowd at MPI that they must be "patient" on revised detention standards, as ICE is trying to find something that works for both advocates and contractors, and is cost-effective).

* Reducing the number of detention facilities. ICE detains 32,000 people per day and around 380,000 per year. Morton stressed the importance of keeping the system compact and organized (ICE has already eliminated 50 facilities under Morton’s watch).

...* Finally, Morton talked about ICE’s preference to detain only criminal immigrants. He detailed ICE’s desire for smart, cost-effective alternatives to detention in order to ensure court appearances for non-criminal immigrants who pose a flight risk. Morton revealed that the Executive Office for Immigration Review is conducting a pilot program for alternatives to detention, and that after testing is complete there could be 16,000-17,000 slots available for immigrants to be placed in these programs.

Considering that - just like the Bush administration - the Obama administration has little use for immigration enforcement aside from as a way to get amnesty, and considering that a very large percentage of those released with a promise to appear never follow through, the last is more than a bit worrisome. While something like electronic monitoring makes sense as an alternative to detention in many cases, the question is whether they'd design the program to fail or whether they'd actually intend for it to work.

DHS' Morton: defends 287g program; defends Arpaio against claims of racial profiling - 01/21/10

From this:

...During a large protest on Saturday in Phoenix that drew 10,000 people, immigrant-rights advocates called on the Department of Homeland Security to end (the 287g program), saying some Valley police officers are engaging in racial profiling by arresting Latinos for minor crimes in order to check their immigration status during the booking process.

But John Morton, the assistant secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (of the Department of Homeland Security), said that is "not in practice what we have seen in the program" known as 287 (g).

Furthermore, he said that while the agency places a priority on arresting illegal immigrants who commit serious crimes, it also cannot turn "a blind eye to people who are here unlawfully simply because they don't have a criminal record."

..."Sixty nine percent of the people we receive in Maricopa County have been convicted of Level 1 and Level 2 offenses, which are serious felony offenses, drug trafficking, assaults, rape," Morton said...

More than 90 percent of the cases presented to the U.S. Attorney in Arizona involving people who committed a felony crime of re-entering the U.S. after deportation from the Maricopa County jail, Morton added.

It was Morton who ended Arpaio's ability under 287g to perform proactive neighborhood sweeps, but he kept in place the jail checks under the same program.

Note also that the Department of Justice is currently conducting a witchhunt against Arpaio but, instead of trying to go after him for racial profiling, they've elected to try to go after him for abuse of powers unrelated to immigration enforcement.

Pilgrim's Pride slapped on wrist; won't be prosecuted for hiring illegal aliens - 12/30/09

From a Department of Homeland Security press release (link):

Immigration and Customs Enforcement have reached a non-prosecution agreement to resolve an investigation with respect to the hiring and employment of unauthorized aliens at Pilgrim's Pride's plants in the Eastern District of Texas... Under the terms of the agreement, Pilgrim's Pride agrees to pay $4.5 million [NOTE: over three years] and adopt more stringent immigration compliance practices to ensure that its work force is composed of employees legally entitled to work in the United States. In return, the U. S. Attorney's Office agrees to conclude its immigration-related investigation of Pilgrim's Pride and any current or former employees... "This case demonstrates that the government and business, working together, can go a long way to resolving the issue of employment of illegal aliens," said U.S. Attorney Bales. "Pilgrim's Pride has cooperated with the United States during this investigation and acknowledged the company's desire to implement rigorous standards to comply with immigration-related laws. With this agreement, Pilgrim's Pride sets itself up as an industry leader in adopting recommended immigration practices. I commend the thorough investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, without which this agreement would not have been possible," Bales said... "ICE's goal is to reduce the opportunity for illegal work in the United States," said John Morton, Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for ICE. "This settlement acknowledges that Pilgrim's Pride is committed to adopting a rigorous immigration compliance program."

For the backstory, see the other entries on the Pilgrims Pride page.

Devin Dwyer of ABC News promotes anti-American bill; would deprive some U.S. students of college - 12/16/09

Devin Dwyer of ABC News offers the four-screen "Legal Limbo: Undocumented Students Eager for Congress to Act" [1] in which he promotes an anti-American bill that would prevent some U.S. students from attending college. If you trust Dwyer's reporting, please visit these two links:

DHS revising rules on immigration detention; some actions might be OK, but motives questionable - 10/06/09

From this:

Homeland Security Department officials said on Tuesday they would enact far-reaching reforms for how Immigration and Customs Enforcement detains immigrants. The new system will prioritize the removal of criminal aliens and those slated for deportation from the country and seek alternatives to incarceration for others when appropriate, said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

The reforms were announced in response to the recently-completed review of the detention system by Dora Schriro, the former director of ICE's Office of Detention Policy and Planning. Schriro left the bureau in September to become the New York City commissioner of corrections.

In addition, ICE will review and centralize management of the more than 300 contracts it has negotiated with other public and private facilities to house detainees, said John Morton, assistant secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

...This fall, ICE will submit to Congress a nationwide implementation plan for creating alternatives to detention where appropriate, such as using monitoring devices on aliens who don't pose a threat to others.

...Napolitano and Morton said they were immediately pursuing plans to develop and implement a risk assessment and custody classification system that would help officials determine the appropriate facilities for detainees, with the idea that converted hotels and other residential facilities may be used to house noncriminal, nonviolent detainees.

To a certain extent, reforms like these might be a good thing, and not just because they'd give the American Civil Liberties Union and other illegal immigration-supporting groups one less place to try to hang their hats. However, considering that the Obama administration has as much use for our immigration laws as the Bush administration did, the specifics of each change will have to be closely monitored to make sure they aren't simply trying to enable illegal immigration.

UPDATE: The DHS press release is at dhs.gov/ynews/releases/pr_1254839781410.shtm