Washington, DC - Briefing by Acting Director of ICE Matthew Albence:
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: Good morning. Thank you for joining us. My name is Matt Albence. I’m the Deputy Director of ICE and the senior official performing the duties of the director.
Before I begin, I want to take a moment to recognize and thank the dedicated law enforcement professionals that are here on the stage with me.
I have Sheriff Jim Skinner from Collin County, Texas; Sheriff Wayne Ivey from Brevard County, Florida; Sheriff Harold Everson - Eavenson, excuse me - Rockwall County, Texas; Sheriff Matt Saxton from Calhoun County, Michigan; Sheriff Sarah Warner from Hettinger County, North Dakota; Sheriff Jesse James Casaus, Sandoval County, New Mexico; Sheriff Sam Page Rockingham County, North Carolina; Sheriff Dale Schmidt, Dodge County, Wisconsin.
We have Mike Davis, who’s the Deputy Principal Legal Advisor for ICE. He’s the highest-ranking career official within ICE, also legal advisor, which is one of the most critical enforcement arms within ICE.
And we have Chris Cronen, who is the Assistant Director for Enforcement within Enforcement and Removal Operations.
We are here today to help the public understand the human cost of sanctuary laws and policies which ban and prevent local law enforcement agencies from working with ICE, to include even the simple sharing of information about criminals already in their custody.
Laws and policies like these make us all less safe. Plain and simple. This isn’t a political matter, it’s a public safety matter. And it’s past time to put aside all the political rhetoric and listen to the facts.
And the fact is: People are being hurt and victimized every day because of jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with ICE. As law enforcement professionals, it is frustrating to see senseless acts of violence and other criminal activity happen in our communities, knowing full well that ICE could’ve prevented them with just a little cooperation.
The type of cooperation we seek is simple. ICE utilizes a decades-old process in which we all issue an official immigration form, known as a detainer, to advise our law enforcement partners that we have established probable cause to believe than an individual — who, again, has already been arrested for an unrelated criminal violation and placed in that agency’s custody — is an alien whose removal from the United States under this nation’s immigration laws.
The detainer asks our law enforcement partners for two simple things: advance notice of an alien’s release from custody and a brief, continued detention of the alien in the partner’s custody until ICE can be present to take this individual into federal immigration custody in a safe and secure environment.
The fact is that 70 percent of the arrests ICE makes are at local jails and state prisons across the country. But we used to make more. And we used to get more criminals off the street before sanctuary laws and policies prevented us from doing so, leaving us with no choice but to expend significant digital resources to locate and arrest criminal aliens and other immigration violators out in the community, including at their homes and places of employment — a more dangerous undertaking for our officers and a more disruptive action within our communities. And simply put, a less effective method.
There will be criminals we don’t find. And sometimes, when we do find them, it’s only after they’ve been arrested for another subsequent criminal violation. Our at-large criminal alien and fugitive operations teams are working in your community every day. We’d much rather take custody of criminal aliens in the safety of a jail environment instead of sending our officers out to perform the dangerous and difficult task of finding them all over again because a local law enforcement agency has refused to allow us to exercise our lawful federal authority to make an immigration arrest.
There’s a lot of misinformation out there with regard to how we do our operations and what is required. So I’m going to give a little bit of information and context to dispel some of those myths and misinformation that’s out there.
One myth is that sanctuary jurisdictions, along with many politicians and members of the media continually perpetuate, is that ICE doesn’t prioritize its limited enforcement resources. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ninety percent of the people that we arrest in the interior of the United States are convicted criminals; individuals who have been charged with a criminal violation; are immigration fugitives; or are illegal reentrants — meaning they’ve been through the immigration court process previously, been deported, and reentered illegally, which is a federal felony and one in which we received 7,000 convictions for last year.
And immigration fugitives, to be clear as well, are those individuals who have had their day in court, have exhausted all forms of due process, have an order to be removed by an immigration judge, and who have failed to comply with that removal order.
Last year, we made more than 105,000 criminal arrests and removed more than 145,000 criminal aliens to include the arrests of nearly 10,000 gang members and the removal of another 6,000.
Many sanctuary jurisdictions will also incorrectly assert that they cannot hand over custody of criminal aliens in their jails unless ICE provides an arrest warrant signed by a federal judge. Those that say that are either willfully ignorant or patently disingenuous.
The truth is that federal law does not provide any mechanism for judicial warrants to be issued for civil immigration violations. There is not a single judge, magistrate anywhere in this country that has a lawful authority to issue a warrant for a civil immigration violation. By statute, Congress has given this authority solely to supervisory immigration officers. This is one of the ways in which our system — the immigration enforcement system — differs from the criminal justice system. And it’s perfectly lawful.
If law enforcement entities that have criminal aliens in custody want to release their aliens back to the street, as opposed to cooperating with ICE, they should not justify their actions through a flagrant misstatement of federal law.
The truth is that every community is safer when law enforcement works together. Some of the sheriffs standing beside me worked with ICE for the 287(g) program, the authority for which, again, comes directly from Congress. This program has proven to be an incredibly successful mechanism for state and local enforcement agencies to work with ICE, and is responsible for the removal of hundreds of thousands of criminal aliens and public safety threats from our communities.
However, there are numerous other ways that law enforcement agencies can work with ICE. And the bottom line is that we are here to collaborate with every law enforcement agency we can in the interest of public safety and national security.
To further illustrate, just this week, the dedicated women and men of ICE conducted a targeted, intelligence-based, at-large criminal alien operation. Many of the subjects we were pursuing had been released from uncooperative sanctuary jurisdictions. Of the nearly 1,300 arrests made this week, our officers arrested nearly 200 who could’ve been arrested at the jail if the detainer had been honored.
Of the criminal aliens we took into custody this week, three had convictions for manslaughter or murder. One hundred had convictions for sexual assault or crimes, with the victims of nearly half of them being children. Seventy had convictions for crimes involving drugs. And more than 320 had convictions for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
For example, in Boulder County, Colorado, our officers found and arrested a 56-year-old illegal alien who had previously been released from the local jail after his arrest for felony sexual assault on a child. We had lodged a detainer with the Boulder County jail, but it was ignored. And he’s again out on the streets, until yesterday.
Regrettably, despite our best efforts, we are not always so fortunate. Like in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, earlier this year, an illegal alien was arrested for a DUI. ICE lodged a detainer, but it too was ignored. Then, in June, that same alien was arrested again. But this time, it was for two counts of assaults on a female — assault by strangulation, assault with a deadly weapon, and another DUI. We lodged a detainer again, but it went unanswered. And Mecklenburg County released him from custody. Hopefully, we will find him before he hurts or kills another innocent victim.
So far, in 2019 — FY2019 — ICE has lodged more than 160,000 detainers nationwide. For those that are honored, we are notified in advance of an alien’s release. The system works, and we are able to place that criminal alien in removal proceedings, or execute an existing, lawful removal order.
On the other hand, if a jurisdiction chooses to become a sanctuary for lawlessness, or chooses to put politics over public safety, we simply won’t know that a removal — often-dangerous, recidivist criminal alien is no longer in law enforcement custody.
What I can tell you, in my almost 25 years of experience, is that we have seen numerous tragic incidents of aliens, being released from custody after having been arrested for a state or local offense, go on to commit other often more egregious crimes.
For those who support victims’ rights — and who among us doesn’t? — how we do tell a grieving victim that the person who hurt you or your loved one that the crime was preventable if local law enforcement had merely honored a detainer, or even given us a phone call?
Who are these sanctuary cities really protecting? The answer, sadly — and often tragically — are criminal aliens. Sanctuary jurisdiction proponents have a well-scripted talking point that they like to recite when confronted with the real-world implications of their ill-advised rules and policies.
They proclaim that community trust and local police will be disrupted or degraded if these local agencies work with ICE. But what these pro-sanctuary advocates do not acknowledge is that when these released criminal aliens commit further crimes, their first target is often the very immigrant communities that sanctuary advocates claim to be protecting.
And what does it say to the victims that do report crimes, when the law enforcement agencies turn a blind eye to the illegality of the person they just arrested and released into the street, knowing full well that ICE was willing and able to remove that threat from the community?
ICE actually has a rare ability within the law enforcement community to prevent crime. We can arrest and remove criminal aliens before they can harm anyone else again, immigrant and citizen alike.
Now, I want to take the time to thank our law enforcement partners who understand that working with ICE isn’t an immigration issue, it’s a public safety issue. It’s time to publicly call out those who have put politics over public safety; those who make our communities less secure; who create safe havens in which criminal aliens and gangs are allowed to flourish and can victimize innocent people with impunity.
Today, ICE senior leadership is holding press conferences in sanctuary jurisdictions throughout the country to highlight the dangerousness of these laws and policies.
California, with a recidivism rate among some illegal alien cohorts is 46 percent. King County, Washington; Chicago; New York City; New Jersey; Mecklenburg County, North Carolina; Denver, Colorado.
You may be the first we’re calling out, but you won’t be the last. This needs to stop. Work with us. Find a way that we can jointly prevent murderers, pedophiles, rapists, drug dealers, and domestic abusers from being released back into our communities. It’s plain and simple.
To the public who want to live and raise your families in safe neighborhoods, we ask you to hold your lawmakers accountable before you or someone you love is unnecessarily victimized by a criminal that ICE could have removed from your community.
I’ll answer questions in a minute, but, first, I’d like you to hear from a couple of our partners.
First off is Sheriff Jim Skinner from Collin County, Texas.
SHERIFF SKINNER: Good morning. My name is Jim Skinner, I’m the sheriff of Collin County, Texas. That’s in the northeast quadrant of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.
I am the legislative director for the Sheriffs Association of Texas. And I also serve on the legislative committee for the National Sheriffs’ Association. So, “howdy” from all the sheriffs in Texas.
I want to first start by thanking President Donald Trump for his leadership seeking rational and meaningful immigration reform. I also want to thank Matt Albence for his dedication on matters of border security and for his ongoing efforts to remove criminal aliens from the United States.
Lastly, I want to thank the — my fellow sheriffs from across the United States and other law enforcement officials for all that you do to fight crime and protect our citizens. You put your lives on the line every day, and we’re grateful for you.
All one has to do is look at the nightmare occurring on our southern border to understand that all Americans are safer when federal, state, and local law enforcement officials cooperate with ICE in their efforts to remove criminal aliens from our country. Not all aliens are DREAMers whose parents brought them to the United States in childhood. As a matter fact, a substantial number are criminal aliens — persons who have violated other United States law. And make no mistake, they are a threat to public safety.
Like thousands of other sheriffs in this country, I oversee a county jail. When I checked the files of inmates under federal immigration detainer request, I find that they’re most often charged with crimes other than being in the United States in violation of immigration laws. To be clear they’re in my jail because my deputies and other local law enforcement officials have arrested them based on probable cause for violations of state and federal law.
In these circumstances, to help keep our communities safe, it takes effective communications, in close cooperation with ICE, to close the loop. We know that, too often, in the wake of these criminal aliens, are left nothing but a trail of victims.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet with Angel families up on the west side of the Capitol. These are folks that have lost their loved ones at the hands of criminal aliens here in the United States illegally. As I looked into their faces, I saw the pain and the anguish that these people are experiencing because of the death of their loved ones. They have pictures of their daughters and their wives and their husbands and their grandparents. And most importantly, their children, who have perished at the hands of criminal aliens.
It makes me ask myself when I see this, you know, what is that oath that you took? I’m a part of the Thin Blue Line along with every other sheriff and every other law enforcement official in this country — federal, state and local. I raised my right hand. I took an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States and the laws of this country. But I expect that, as law enforcement officials, we all understand that and that we all are going to work hard towards that end.
So in spite of the fact that a peace officer may work in a jurisdiction where politicians or lawmakers are willingly ignorant or willfully blind to the rule of law and our God-given rights enshrined in our Constitution, we, the law enforcement officers, are the ones who must ensure that the rule of law is respected and adhered.
My word to them is: Push back. Be brave. Remember your oath. Remember that your first responsibility are those citizens that you serve. In these times, it’s that collaboration between federal, state, and local law enforcement that best enables us to protect the communities and the citizens that we love.
There’s two ways to cooperate with ICE. The main two ways, of course, are compliance with the federal immigration detainer request that Matt was speaking about a few minutes ago, and then, of course, participation in the Section 287(g) program. Both of these are vital, and both of these are vital for any community that’s interested in keeping their citizens safe.
To honor our oaths, we have to be willing to work with all levels of law enforcement in order to protect our citizens. We’re thankful for ICE, and we’re thankful for the invaluable service that they provide to the citizens across this nation.
Like so many other state and local law enforcement officials across the country, I, in Collin County, Texas — I’m better prepared to serve my citizens and my communities because of my relationship with ICE. We are grateful for the men and women of ICE. Thank you.
SHERIFF IVEY: Good morning, everyone. I’m Sheriff Wayne Ivey of Brevard County, Florida. I don’t have a “howdy” or anything like my partner from Texas, but good morning. (Laughter.)
SHERIFF SKINNER: We’ll send you a hat.
SHERIFF IVEY: Like all the law enforcement officers standing here with me today, and the many around the country, we’re honored to stand with our Director of ICE and our teammates from ICE as we all work together to combat the illegal immigration crisis that is currently impacting our country.
In order for us to properly address and combat this growing problem, it is imperative that local and federal law enforcement officers work together just as they would to battle any other crime that puts our citizens and our country at risk.
Unfortunately, though, some in our country think that local law enforcement should not work with ICE on this critical issue, and as such, have created the concept of sanctuary cities to block enforcement efforts.
To be clear, the concept of sanctuary cities is perhaps the most ridiculous and outrageous idea I’ve ever encountered in my almost 40 years of law enforcement. To think that there are those in power who took the same oath of office that we did to uphold the Constitution, who would be willing to oppose the rule of law, is completely insane and unacceptable.
That is why I’m extremely proud of the state of Florida. As under the direction of our great Governor, Ron DeSantis, we recently banned sanctuary cities, creating a partnership environment for local law enforcement officers to work hand-in-hand with our partners at ICE and CBP. That same law also mandates that rather than releasing illegal aliens back into our communities, county jails must enter into agreements with ICE to temporarily house persons subject to immigration detainers.
Governor DeSantis further directed the Florida Department of Corrections to join in a federal immigration enforcement program known as the 287(g) that enables permitted law enforcement officers to perform immigration law enforcement functions after they have received the appropriate training.
In addition, our governor recommended that Florida sheriffs across the board participate in the 287(g) program as well as the Warrant Service Officer program, both of which are working perfectly to enhance partnerships between local and federal agencies while making a difference in keeping our communities safe. I’m proud of the state of Florida for taking the lead on this initiative.
I can’t begin to tell you how important it is for local law enforcement to be un-handcuffed so that we can work with ICE and CBP to enforce the law to combat illegal immigration and to protect our citizens.
I challenge you to find any other crime where elected officials would want federal and local authorities to not work together, where they do everything in their power to stop them from working together on a homicide, on a missing child case, on drug cases, or even human trafficking cases. The answer is unequivocally, “no.”
They would want them to work together to do everything possible to solve those cases and bring that criminal to justice. Yet, by creating a sanctuary for illegal aliens to hide, they’re actually protecting criminals who commit homicides, narcotic violations, commit sexual assaults, and prey upon our citizens.
As I said earlier, for some elected leaders in our country to ignore the rule of law and create a sanctuary that protects those who entered our country illegally is not only outrageous but, in my opinion, is criminal and an immediate violation of the very oath they took to support, protect, and defend our Constitution.
It’s time to hold those accountable that create sanctuaries for criminals, and it’s time for Congress to stand with our federal law enforcement partners instead of standing in the way of justice, and most importantly, in the way of protecting our citizens.
In closing, I have a very simple message for those who want to create a sanctuary that harbors criminals and those members of Congress who have become obstructionists in the protection of our citizens: You need to stop standing with criminals and start standing with the heroic men and women who are putting their lives on the line every day to protect our citizens. Either become part of the solution or get out of our way, because I can assure you that nothing is going to stop local law enforcement from working with our federal partners in the protection of our great nation. And I mean absolutely nothing is going to stop us.
Thank you, sir.
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: Sir.
Q Thank you. You mentioned your frustration with passionately obstructionist local governments and, in some cases, even statehouses. What is your message to the people who live in those communities? Not government officials and not those who have a political agenda that might be opposed to ICE in particular. What’s your message to the people who live in those places about why it’s important you all do what you do and the help that you need?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: Well, my message to them would be: They should be challenging those lawmakers and policymakers within those communities as to why they aren’t cooperating with us. Why are they choosing to put politics above public safety? Why do they want these criminals being released back to the street as opposed to being removed from the country, if we have a removal order for them?
It’s kind of incredulous for me to think about that these jurisdictions will want their law enforcement agency to expend the resources to arrest these individuals for a criminal violation that they’re sworn to uphold, but yet they will prevent another law enforcement agency from exercising that same responsibility. It doesn’t make sense.
And I can’t believe we’re at this point in my 25-year career that I have to go ask another law enforcement agency to help me. When I started in 1994, we had something to do. We had a warrant to serve or we had someone go out and arrest. You had to beat away partners with a stick because there were so many people willing to help. And, frankly, most of them will. I could have had 50 sheriffs up here on the stage if I had the room for it.
So, it’s really few jurisdictions. It’s unfortunate that they’re having to be in areas where there are very large populations of criminal aliens.
So that’s what I would tell them.
Q And your position as far as what the President has said to you with respect to his desire to —
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: I haven’t discussed this with the President.
Q Have not? Okay.
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: Ma’am.
Q Yes. I was wondering if you could give more detail on plans to expand family detention, if there will be additional facilities built, or if you will convert other ICE facilities. And what is the goal of detention capacity for families?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: Okay, so I’m happy to answer that question. I’d really like to (inaudible) the topics, but family detention, we can only expand to the level that Congress appropriates. So we can only expend funds that Congress has appropriated for family detention. Right now, that gets us about 3,300 family beds.
So, in the absence of additional appropriations, we’re not looking to expand; we will look to utilize those beds as efficiently as we possibly can.
Q On this detainer issue, to what extent do you find yourself arresting undocumented immigrants in courthouses? There have been some lawsuits that have been publicized recently. And are there standards with your agency as to when to arrest and when not?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: That’s a great question. Thank you.
So, the fact that we have to arrest people in courthouses is largely necessitated by the fact that law enforcement agencies will not honor our detainers. Four or five years ago, before this whole sanctuary city issue exploded, we didn’t really have to go into court rooms because we’d be able to get the individual while they’re sitting in the custody of another law enforcement agency.
With regard to our policy, we worked very closely with the State Association of Chief Justices and State Court Administrators several years ago. Myself, when I was the Assistant Director for Enforcement, worked hand-in-hand with the leadership of those two agencies to develop a policy.
The policy that exists today with regard to how we conduct enforcement operations in courthouses came out of that process. Their feedback, their input was integrated into that policy.
Q Is it a disruption? Is it a disruption to the judicial process?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: It’s a disruption to the safety of the American citizens who are being victimized by these individuals. You go to any courthouse in this land and these sheriffs will tell you they will have law enforcement officers from every agency nearby arresting somebody in their courtroom every day.
Criminals are mobile; most of them are recidivist. So I guarantee you, I can go into Fairfax County today and there will probably be sheriffs from Loudoun County, sheriffs from Prince William County, maybe a couple of marshals guys that are there waiting for somebody. It’s a common occurrence in law enforcement. The only reason it’s being made controversial is because politicians are looking to exploit it.
Q The sanctuary jurisdictions often have large immigrant populations. And you called this a talking point, but local law enforcement will often say that if they’re simply seen as an arm of ICE, they won’t get cooperation from those communities to solve other crimes. Why do you not find that to be a valid argument?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: Well, I haven’t seen any statistics that prove that. What I can tell you is that the number of immigration alien queries, which those are, is when an individual gets arrested by a state or local law enforcement agency — for whatever criminal violation they were arrested for — we get the fingerprints through the FBI, and it bounces off of our databases. Those numbers have gone up every year, which means that more and more crimes involving aliens are being reported.
So the numbers don’t bear out that argument. I would think the more chilling effect, as I mentioned, is that those victims that do come forward asking the local police to take this illegal alien out of their house or out of the community, that the police arrest him and he bonds out and goes right back to the same community to victimize that he was in the first place. What does that do to the victims?
They’re not going to be willing to report those crimes. And I would say I’ve also heard, you know, with regard to crimes of violence and reduction in crimes of violence, in the past three years, we have arrested more than 157,000 people that were involved in crimes of violence to include domestic and family violence.
Q (Inaudible) in the administration is making it harder for people to apply for asylum. Does you agency anticipate more people crossing illegally? And what are you doing about it? And I’d like to hear from the local authorities as well.
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: Okay. I’m going to answer — be the only one answering questions right now. ICE does not deal with direct border enforcement. That’s Customs and Border Protection, so I would defer the question to them.
What we have seen, though, with regard to some of the very important measures that we have put forward and the administration has put forward over the past couple of months, with regard to asylum cooperative agreements, federal regulation with regard to say a third country with the migrant protection protocols — what we have seen, which is consistent with my experience as we have seen time and time again, that when individuals cannot come into this country illegally and be released from detention, the numbers of those individuals that try to come to this country decrease.
Q Thank you, sir. You mentioned a number of sanctuary cities by name — Chicago; Mecklenburg, for instance — that you say are not cooperating with law enforcement. Is it your belief that those cities — the mayors of those cities — are not interested in protecting their own citizens?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: I’m not going to cast my thoughts onto the thought of a mayor. I would say it’s antithetical to public safety and for those of us in law enforcement. It’s hard to imagine that there would be any sort of framework within a jurisdiction that would prevent local law enforcement from sharing information. I mean, why would you kick us out of gang databases? Who is against us arresting illegal, criminal alien gang members? Why would you shut your gang database to us? Again, I think it’s people putting politics over public safety.
Q Have you asked that question that you just posed to leaders of those cities?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: I haven’t spoken with them.
Q Wouldn’t that make sense to ask that question to those leaders?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: I can tell you — and I was up here in D.C. working in this space during the prior administration, Secretary Johnson must’ve made at least a half a dozen trips to Chicago to try to convince them to cooperate with us under the Priority Enforcement Program to no avail.
Q Yes. You said you arrested 1,300 people this week.
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: Yes, ma’am.
Q How is that different from any other typical week that you do targeted enforcement actions? And so what’s the timing of this particular campaign nationwide to lash out against sanctuary cities? What is the timing of that, since it’s not a new problem?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: It’s a not a new problem, but it’s one that’s not getting enough attention. I wish it was a new problem and we were at the front end of it, and we get in front of it. Unfortunately, it’s a problem that’s been mushrooming year after year after year, and more and more of these jurisdictions are choosing not to cooperate with us.
There was no particular reason for the timing of this operation. We conduct daily operations every day throughout the country. This was a concerted surge operation in which we had a large number of individuals, many of whom came from these sanctuary jurisdictions that we went out and tried to effectuate the arrest. Just like state and locals will do warrant searches occasionally, as well, when the backlog rose.
Q I want to ask about the asylum deal reached with Honduras. Many asylum seekers are fleeing violence and corruption. Why should they be sent to Honduras, a place with violence, corruption, and one of the highest murder rates in the world?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: You know, again, I’m here to talk about what we’re talking about. That asylum deal was dealt with by Secretary McAleenan and those higher at the department. I’m not involved in that.
Q Doesn’t (inaudible) for Honduras defeat the purpose of (inaudible) give them safe haven?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: Next question. Ma’am.
Q Thank you. Sir, I wanted to ask you about the timing of this briefing. There are some people that are going to say that, obviously, the Acting DNI is testifying on Congress. Can you speak to the timing of this and why this is happening right now? Why not wait until after the this (inaudible) big news day in D.C.?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: Well, we started planning this several weeks ago.
Q Why not reschedule it?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: Well, I’m going to answer your question.
Q Yes. Thank you.
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: So we started planning this several weeks ago. We wanted to do it concurrent with the end of the operation. As you can imagine, a large-scale criminal alien operation where we’re targeting several thousand criminal aliens takes time to plan. We’re not in a position to try to change our operational footprint. We’ve done surveillance. We’ve done investigations. We’ve got information where we think these targets are located. We need to act upon that. So, doing the press conference contemporaneously with the operation only makes sense.
Q Is it urgent to do it now, would you say?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: I think it’s urgent every single day to get people that continue to victimize communities, out of those communities.
Q Yes, thank you, sir. Do you find that having — the administration having eliminated DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, actually helped ICE in terms of actually making people who were legally working in this country — even though they were undocumented? They were actually at least documented within the system. Now they’re illegal. Does that help ICE?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: Well, as I understand it — and, again, it’s not something that generally we get involved in — but those individuals’ status still remains. So the court does an injunction. So those individuals with DACA still have DACA.
So the individuals that have DACA that we come in contact with, just as most of the individuals that we come in contact with, is a result of their interaction with the criminal justice system — meaning they’ve been arrested for another crime by some state or local law enforcement agency. We received information, generally via the biometrics that are taken upon that arrest, that notifies us this individual was arrested for that crime.
Q Sir, thank you. In Montgomery Country, Maryland, nine illegal aliens were arrested in just over a month with sex-related charges. Some of them were released back into the community because of the sanctuary policies there. Is national ICE leadership following that case?
And in a situation like that, what can you do on your end, in lieu of a local policy change, in order to increase cooperation with your agency?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: Well, we work closely with both the law enforcement partners, as well as elected officials within these cities. We try to find ways to work with them. I can speak specifically to that: We’ve had meetings with the commissioner of the county, and trying to find ways in which he will cooperate with us so they don’t turn these dangerous criminals back out into the street.
But I don’t think anything encapsulates the issue any more so than what’s happened in Montgomery County in the last month. If I worked in Montgomery County, I would be ashamed of the fact that I was turning criminal aliens back out into the street, seeing the criminal histories and the victimization that these individuals are causing.
Q And the County Executive, Mark Elrich, claimed that he was cooperating more with ICE since the national attention has been brought on that case. Have you found that to be the case?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: It’s been really recently since our field officer director met with him, so I really don’t have the information on that.
Q Thank you. I wanted to ask you about the effect of the “Abolish ICE” protests. I covered one at the headquarters in D.C. I know there was another recent one where ICE workers were trying to get into the building but were blocked by protestors. I know these have happened all over the country. I was wondering if you could talk about the effect that has on morale of employees, and whether that has any effect on how you enforce the law.
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: Well, I couldn’t be more proud to stand here and represent the dedicated professionals at ICE. I have met no batch of government employees and civil servants in my career that are more dedicated, more committed, and more professional than the men and women of ICE — despite the challenges that are placed in front of us, despite political rhetoric that, as we have seen, is putting our officers and agents at risk.
In the past several months, we’ve seen individuals shoot into one of our buildings where we have officers working at a command center dealing with criminal aliens. We have seen individuals try to blow up a detention facility. We have been called — told that we’ve run concentration camps, knowing full well that we don’t run concentration camps.
Anybody can go to our website or go to the media over the past several months and look at the — our detention facilities. We have opened up our detention facilities to the media completely. We‘ve had tours at the Northwest detention center in Tacoma, which is one an individual tried to blow up. We’ve had more than 30, 40 media down to our family residential center in Dilley.
And let me say something about that. Everybody in this room has seen — for the past year, year and a half — pictures of the challenges that CBP was facing with the overwhelming numbers of family units that were coming to the border during the height of the surge in early spring. Every media outlet showed those pictures. I had 40 cameras from every media outlet, locally and nationally, that were invited to come to our family residential center and show them what the real conditions are for individuals that are actually being detained within ICE.
Not one national network showed one clip of that. But feel free to go to local affiliates that all these media outlets in here had that were at that, and look at that video, and then come back and tell me that we run concentration camps.
Q Sir, there was a case where the city of Oakland was tipping people off about ICE raids. Are there certain sanctuary districts and municipalities that are particularly dangerous? Like, have you been tracking the attacks on your officers? Is there any way that that’s a trend you’ve identified?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: I mean, we certainly are following them closely, and obviously we have intelligence that we that we follow up on. I think what we’ve seen is that, in a lot of these places that are sanctuary cities, that’s where that — where the rhetoric is spewed continually, that where those threats and those challenges come across.
I don’t think —
Q Are there particular sanctuary districts that are more dangerous?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: I don’t think in Sheriff Skinner’s jurisdiction he’s going to have people marching on his jail.
Q Sorry, I just wanted to follow up really quickly on the family detention. In order to enforce — to end catch and release and to enforce the new rules that replace the Flores settlement, how can you do that without further facilities to detain families?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: So, family detention is just one — as we’ve gone through with publishing the regulation on the Flores settlement agreement that was required by the court in order to end that settlement agreement — that’s just one tool.
We have the migrant protection protocols, which are requiring family units to remain in Mexico while they wait for their hearing. We have regulations which will prevent family units from being able to apply for asylum here in this country if they pass through a safe third country.
So there’s various things we’re working on, such to the point that we may not need to use all those beds — at least for those that are initially arrested. What we have been using them for is for those families that have gone through the immigration court process — most of whom don’t even show up for their first hearing, and have been ordered removed by an immigration judge — we use them to detain and stage prior to their removal from the country.
Ma’am, you have one, I think.
Q Was the Obama administration doing something differently? Or were they more successful at forging local law enforcement partnerships? Because their removal numbers are far lower than what they are now.
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: So, it’s kind of apples and oranges. The removal numbers that you’re talking about that were higher in the Obama administration was — were the result of the fact that most of the people coming across the border were individuals that were Mexican nationals that could be returned almost immediately, if not shortly thereafter. That was the largest population that was coming across the border, which is why you have those numbers.
If you look at what we’ve done over the past three years: Our numbers of criminal aliens being removed from this country have continually increased. And I will note, though, that one of the things when we’ve talked about with the crisis at the border of it being a humanitarian crisis, a border security crisis — it’s also a public safety crisis.
We’ve had to actually redeploy a lot of our interior enforcement resources that would be taking criminal aliens off the street to deal with the onslaught of the surge that was occurring. As a result of that, we have fewer people out there performing criminal alien work, which is why this cooperation is so essential.
But as a result of what’s on the border, there’s going to be a double digit drop in criminal alien arrests this year directly related to the fact of what’s going on at the border and the fact that we had to put more people in detention than we had room for.
Sir, last question.
Q Then why did that demograph- — why did that demographic change? Why was it Mexicans then, and now, you know, more violent criminals?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: The UAC and family unit surge started in 2014. We established family detention in 2015, at which point the numbers of those individuals precipitously dropped because we were able to detain them for a short period of time during the pendency of their immigration process.
When the courts in California — the Ninth Circuit — made a decision that the protections given to UAC, under the Flores settlement agreement, should also be applied to children that were with their parents — not UACs — and we could no longer utilize family detention, as soon as that happened, the numbers spiked.
Sir, last question,
Q I’m sorry if you said this. Forgive me if I missed it. But did you say how many sanctuary jurisdictions you guys think there are in the country right now?
And then, secondly, what would you say to a mayor of a city who might point to some of this litigation around the detainers and say that, hey, this is sort of a murky legal area for them, and that that’s their concern?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: I don’t have an — I don’t have an exact number. I’m happy to follow up with you.
With regard to the detainer, the detainer and the legality of it has been upheld by the Supreme Court. But we’ve also created ways, working very closely with our partners in the National Sheriffs’ Association and some of the sheriffs here on stage to create new programs and utilize existing programs to help alleviate that issue.
So those officers that are 287(g) — these departments that have 287(g) — when those officer effectuate an arrest for an individual’s immigration violation, they are doing so as federal officers. It’s just as if one of my officers is sitting in that jail making that same arrest.
So any liability — and that’s what the sheriffs come down to: They don’t want to be liable, and they don’t want to be sued by ACLU and other groups that are attacking them for cooperating with us.
So we’ve created — the 287(g) program has been in existence for many years. We created the Warrant Service Officer program this year, which gives limited authority to state-level jurisdictions to effectuate immigration arrests at our direction. Those two programs alleviate most of those problems. But we’ve been working with Congress for years to help guide draft legislation that would codify the detainer, indemnify these jurisdictions that do cooperate with us, and, shockingly, Congress has failed to act on that as well.
So I appreciate it, everybody. Thank you for the time.
Q Can you guarantee criminal victims won’t be deported if they come forward? Can you speak to the victims, sir? Can you guarantee criminal victims won’t be prosecuted if they come forward?
Q And, sir, do you have to redefine what ICE is in any of these communities where they don’t —
Q Could you just speak to the victims, sir?
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: Actually, I am going to speak to that because that’s another myth. And —
Q That’s one of the — yes, that’s one of the biggest — one of the biggest concerns, one of the biggest criticisms is —
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: Again, we don’t know who victims are. The reason we’re there in those courtrooms is because we know who the criminal is. The criminal has his fingerprints run, they bounce off our databases, we know who he is —
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: Let me finish. You asked a question, I’m going to finish it.
Q Yes, sir.
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: We know who he is, and we’re there to make an arrest on that individual. We don’t know who the victim is. We don’t randomly go in and ask individuals that we don’t have probable cause to detain for their status.
To this gentleman’s prior question, we have a policy which guides that and dictates that. And, frankly, we have a robust victim witness program within ICE to assist victims that are on (inaudible).
So, thank you.
Q Well, that’s one of the criticisms is that you don’t — that you prosecute victims.
ACTING DIRECTOR ALBENCE: It’s not a fair criticism. It’s not true.