According to the January 8 New York Times, Chris Crane, head of the 7,000 member ICE deportation officers union, has ordered his members to refuse to participate in training sessions for implementing the John Morton memo. This memo focuses on deporting serious criminal immigrants, rather than ones with no criminal record, and with family or other ties to the US. Crane refuses to implement the Morton memo because he is opposed to it, calling it "amnesty". But unions exist to protect the employment rights of their members, not to set agency policy.
A Republican president, Ronald Reagan, not only signed legislation legalizing 2 million immigrants, but when faced with a federal employees' union representing insubordinate air traffic controllers, he promptly fired them. President Obama should announce immediately that any ICE agent who refuses to attend the Morton memo training sessions will be treated the same way. Will Obama show the same courage as his Republican predecessor?
In other news, anyone who watched the infantile shouting, name-calling sessions known as Republican presidential debates this past weekend, must have been struck by the intelligence and common sense of the only adult on the stage, Jon Huntsman. It is noteworthy that Huntsman is the only Republican candidate (except, perhaps, Ron Paul) who has made clear that mass deportations are not a solution of America's immigration problem and will not happen if he is president. One does not, like Hunstman, have to be smart enough to speak Mandarin fluently in order to recognize this simple reality. All that is needed is some basic intelligence, honesty and humanity. These qualities were present in the Republican party of Ronald Reagan. It is hard to find them among today's Republican leaders.
Even though Huntsman may be gaining in the polls, he has no chance of being nominated by a party that has been taken over by hate - against immigrants, gays, Muslims and women seeking abortions. There is no such thing as prejudice against foreign citizens only. The genie of bigotry cannot be kept in the anti-immigration bottle.
President Obama has now signed a law allowing for indefinite detention, without charges or trial, of American citizens who may be "suspected" of terrorist activities. It is no accident that this giant step toward fascism was approved by the same president who has deported record numbers of immigrants. Denying basic human rights to non-US citizens is coming back to haunt Americans as well.
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years.