A Republican Congressional member was called out for grossly misrepresenting the responsibilities of the Public Advocate at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency as an “illegal alien lobbyist.” During a House Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday, Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) suggested that the purpose of the appointment of a public advocate for the federal immigration agency was to disrupt and undermine the agency’s ability to secure the borders and to protect the American people and instead lobby for undocumented immigrants, a claim that riled both Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX).
“In February 2012, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement appointed a so-called ‘Public Advocate’ to act as a lobbyist for illegal and criminal aliens within the agency,” Black said during her witness testimony. “This lobbyist disrupted detention procedures and undermined the hardworking men and women who have dedicated their careers to securing our borders and protecting the American people.”
But Lofgren took Black to task to say that calling the public advocate “an illegal alien lobbyist” is not only “quite a slur, but very unfair.” Jackson-Lee later said that the characterization raised questions of “frivolity and legislative milquetoast.” Jackson-Lee continued, “why are Republicans are insistent on deporting DREAMers that they would distort the position of the President and ICE?”
Heading the “Enforcing the President’s Constitutional Duty to Faithfully Execute The Laws” hearing was House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) who, along a panel of witnesses, questioned the constitutionality of a 2012 presidential initiative — the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — which granted temporary legal presence and deportation relief to some undocumented immigrants between the ages of 15 and 31. Black argued that it was an outrage that ICE’s public advocate would help the Obama administration to continue its “pro-illegal immigration activists.”
The public advocate serves as the point of contact between individuals, including those in immigration proceedings, and the federal immigration agency. According to the job description, the public advocate would assist individuals with concerns related to ICE enforcement actions that affect U.S. citizens, “foster collaboration and solicit input on immigration enforcement initiatives and operations,” and “advise ICE leadership on stakeholder findings, concerns, recommendations and priorities as they relate to improving immigration enforcement efforts and activities.” Equally important, the public advocate is a watch dog to ensure that immigrants are able to lay out their concerns with some immigration policies. According to the Immigration Policy Center, the public advocate may even be helpful in finding “resolutions to long-standing problems,” possibly by ensuring that low-priority, non-serious immigrants aren’t placed in immigration proceedings in the first place. Black previously introduced legislation in 2013 to defund the public advocate position.
Black is not the only conservative who has lambasted the role of the public advocate. When ICE announced the creation of the role, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) called the new office “a lobbying firm for illegal immigrants.”