Applications for the new “deferred action” program aren’t expected to open up until spring. But federal immigration agents are already being told to consider whether immigrants in their custody might qualify for the new program — and not to deport them if they might.
The new guidance that Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers are receiving was reported by Breitbart Texas a few weeks ago, after receiving leaked documents from a Customs and Border Protection agent. (The Associated Press reported on a similar set of guidelines on Wednesday.) The leaks make it clear that the agents themselves are extremely unhappy that they’re being told not to deport immigrants who they know are unauthorized — and in fact, if anything, are being told to help them. Immigration agents have long distrusted the Obama administration’s commitment to enforcing immigration law aggressively. That relationship is about to get a whole lot rockier.
The fact that the White House is already in a fight with agents before anyone has even gotten the chance to apply for the new program is a big deal for both the political fight over the executive actions, and the policy battle over their implementation. The resistance of federal immigration agents was one big reason that the Obama administration’s first attempt to protect some unauthorized immigrants, in 2010 and 2011, didn’t work — and will make it much harder for the government to roll out the new program. On the political front, agents — and in particular their unions — have become an unlikely ally of the congressional Republicans leading the political attacks against the administration’s program. As a theoretical legal argument over the basic constitutionality of the president’s actions grows into an argument about how they’re being implemented, agents are going to play a key role. (Read more about the fight with border agents HERE)