The House Judiciary Committee (HJC) has finally voted on its first immigration bill this year! Except that instead of creating a permanent solution to the immigration system, they’re once again pushing forward an anti-immigration agenda by ostensibly approving a bill that “reins in the growing problem of executive overreach.” During a hearing Wednesday, the HJC narrowly approved the Immigration Compliance Enforcement (ICE) Act, which would defund the position of a federal immigration agency personnel who serves as point of contact for people in immigration proceedings, such as children and pregnant immigrants.
The ICE Act, approved 17-14 on partisan votes, would remove the position of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency Community Outreach Officer, which many Republicans like Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) have likened to a “lobbyist for illegal aliens.” 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.”
At the committee hearing, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) said that the elimination of such a position would be “one less check in the system to prevent rape or sexual assault. There would be one less check in the system to ensure that children are cared for even when their parents are taken into custody, and one less check to prevent American citizens from being unjustly detained and removed.”
On a partisan divide, Democrats also failed to amend the bill to allow funding “for certain tasks handled by the office, such as referring complaints related to pregnant women in ICE custody and helping parents in detention make arrangements for the care of their children,” according to the Huffington Post. In her testimony, Lofgren charged that none of the House Republicans on the committee could understand what it’s like being shackled while giving birth, since they were all men.
Republicans defunded the position in 2012 when Black introduced the legislation as an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act. But the position of the “Public Advocate” underwent a title change and the Obama administration “kept the person in charge and the job description the same. ” That person, Andrew Lorenzen-Strait, then became known as the deputy assistant director of “Custody Programs and Community Outreach.”
Just last week, Lofgren and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) slammed Black for grossly misrepresenting the responsibilities of the position. And ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen defended the position in a statement, “Community engagement promotes public safety by bringing law enforcement, concerned citizens, NGOs, the business community and others together to engage in dialogue, express concerns, and find ways to mutually support each other and resolve conflict.”
For all that HJC Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) has hemmed and hawed over the broken immigration system, his committee has spent an exorbitant amount of time not discussing solutions. In February and again March, the HJC twice convened to debate, mark up, and vote on Black’s amendment. The committee twice met to discuss “rampant” asylum abuse last month and in December 2013. They also held a hearing to investigate whether the Department of Homeland Security had released criminal immigrant gang members into the streets. And in 2013, Goodlatte led efforts to pass five separate immigration bills, including the Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement (SAFE) Act, which focused heavily on border enforcement and would have destroyed community trust and cooperation.