If what’s going on here is what it looks like, it’s apparently not a case of the wheels falling off the bus – it’s more a case of the U.S. federal government targeting its own bus with an anti-tank missile.
Three reports in the last 24 hours indicate that something very odd may be going on. One is an unconfirmed report, although someone should start seeing the effects from it in a few days, if it’s true. The other two are solid.
Catholic Church gets the call
The first one I’ll lay out came from a caller to the Rush Limbaugh show on Tuesday (8 July). The caller and her husband wanted to let Limbaugh’s audience know that the Catholic Diocese* of San Bernardino, California, had signed on the day before, 7 July, to receive illegal immigrant children from the federal government and take care of them. The diocese was asking parishioners from the area (which includes Murrieta, CA) to offer their homes to take the children in.
An emergency meeting was called by the diocesan leadership on Monday afternoon to discuss the plan. According to the Limbaugh show caller, there were about 100 people at the meeting, and about 70% of them concurred with the plan.
Probably the most interesting aspect of this is that the attendees at the diocesan meeting were told not to tell anyone about the plan, and especially not to speak to the media (emphasis added):
[Caller ANN]: They [the diocesan leadership] have made the decision that they’re going to absorb the immigrants that are coming through because the federal government called the bishop’s office on Monday and they’re gonna be busing these immigrants to our communities and asking us to open our homes and to house them for up to a month. The church will reimburse us for any out-of-pocket expenses and we were told not to talk to anybody about it, especially the media. I’m not especially happy about it.
RUSH: …Ann, I want to clarify. Did you say that it is the Catholic Church that the government called and asked for assistance?
RUSH: Okay. And then the Catholic Church accepted and said, “Okay, we will,” at least the Catholic Church in your town. You haven’t identified where you’re from.
RUSH: And then the bishop has asked you and the other parishioners to help pay for this, but you are not supposed to tell anybody this, which you’ve just done.
ANN: Yes. That’s what they asked us, not to get the media involved. The diocese will reimburse us for any out-of-pocket expenses.
Notice, in case it needs emphasizing, that the report is that the federal government called the bishop. This in itself is interesting; enlisting the Catholic Church would be a major policy decision on a matter with national-security implications. In the normal course of events, I would expect the bishop’s staff to speak to a meeting of lay leaders in terms of having coordinated something like this with the archdiocese (which in this case would be the Archdiocese of Los Angeles), rather than leaving a definitive impression that the federal government had called directly.
Here’s the diocese’s tweet on the 7 July meeting:
— SanBernardinoDiocese (@sbdiocese) July 7, 2014
ICE field office stand-down?
The second report is the unconfirmed one. It comes from Eric Odom of Liberty News, who has a good track record of documenting and backing up his reports. Odom has a source in ICE who said on Monday that the agents of the Los Angeles Field Office, which covers Murrieta as well as Los Angeles, have been “furloughed” indefinitely – although the description sounds like they’ve actually been put on vacation. (If the full report is valid, the agents are receiving their pay but have been told not to show up for work.)
Odom issues this obvious warning:
What this essentially means is that, if the reports are true, Obama has intentionally weakened American security without actually saving any money in the process.
Recall that ICE is the agency responsible for the follow-on processing of illegals after the Border Patrol coordinates their initial screening. It’s ICE that documents them individually for processing through the immigration court system and tracking them until a decision is made on each case. ICE puts them on the bus and makes sure that the individual people are in the Office of Refugee Resettlement system at HHS.
If it’s just a coincidence that the Catholic diocese decided to accept and house the illegals on the same day that a reporter (with no evident knowledge of this decision) heard from a credible source that the ICE Los Angeles Field Office had been quietly put on vacation – well, I’ll be very surprised.
That said, the mechanics of putting a slew of ICE agents on paid vacation would obviously be something noticeable and seemingly prohibitive, in terms of all the normal work that wouldn’t get done. Would the ongoing Murrieta standoff be sufficient to provoke such an apparently irresponsible, bridge-burning action? Does the report mean, perhaps, that ICE will be taking a selective approach to its responsibilities, rather than meaning that the whole field office will be on vacation?
Those are very good questions. A year ago, I would probably have dismissed the Odom report as clearly incredible: a mistake of some sort, assuming Odom was doing his best to report accurately, and not just forward crazy rumors. Given everything we’ve seen out of the Obama administration for the last couple of years, however – the secrecy, the outright lies, the mismanagement, the silencing of witnesses, the gag orders against federal employees – as well as the surreal misuse of government agencies in the border crises, I wouldn’t automatically discount Odom’s report today.
Los Angeles cuts ICE workload
And, that said, there is a third report that may shed some light on the magnitude of what’s going on behind the scenes. This report also came out on 7 July. The city of Los Angeles has formally announced that it will no longer honor a whole category of requests from ICE to detain illegals on ICE’s behalf in the LA jails.
The policy change is described as follows:
Previously, the department would send information about arrestees to U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, which would then make requests for certain individuals to be detained longer so they could be turned over to ICE custody for possible deportation.
Under the new policy, which the LAPD began following last week, ICE detainer requests for individuals arrested on minor crimes will only be honored if there is a court warrant or the case has gone through the judicial system.
It’s not clear what all the moving parts in this may be. Activists have immediately begun pressuring the Los Angeles County Sheriff to follow the city’s lead and ignore ICE requests for detention. If the sheriff agrees, that would streamline the policy for the whole of LA County, and probably make a substantial dent in ICE’s workload.
Superficially, this would all seem to be a case of local defiance (if judicially-backed defiance) against the federal government – which in turn would seem to be somewhat out of character for Mayor Eric Garcetti, a smooth-edged moderate-left Democrat who hasn’t been known, in his short time in office, for radical shenanigans.
On the other hand, Garcetti was arm in arm, as he made the announcement about ending the ICE agreement, with some of the same people who have been sponsoring the Astroturf pro-illegal counter-protests in Murrieta.
Another informative feature of the situation is that the reaction from ICE is barely detectable. The Los Angeles Times (link above) quoted from a pro forma ICE press release, which pointed out that the detainer agreement with the LAPD has kept dangerous criminals from running loose in the population. But what’s missing is any kind of zeal or signal that ICE or DHS wants to revisit the decision with the city. ICE seems to be accepting LA’s policy change with utter passivity. (LAT‘s stance is notably incurious about that as well.) One can’t help observing, again, that the LA policy change could certainly reduce ICE’s workload in the coming days.
Amazing double standard for admission to immigrant detention facilities
Still another interesting development seems to cast peculiar shadows on the situation. My fascination here is not so much with the 8 July report that a large ICE detention facility in Adelanto, California is being expanded, as it is with the very different relationship the Obama agencies seem to have with a California Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives, as opposed to an Oklahoma Republican – or, indeed, with the news media wanting to tour any of the facilities now housing illegal minors.
Consider the reception Democrat Judy Chu got at Adelanto on Monday, 8 July**:
On Monday, several immigrant advocacy groups asked U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) to tour the facility at Adelanto, where she spent three hours walking the grounds, sampling the food in the cafeteria and browsing the resources available in the center’s law library.
Speaking to immigrant advocates protesting outside, Chu said she did not notice anything especially worrisome about the facility, although she said she spoke to one inmate who complained that detainees were not given enough to eat or enough time to work on their cases in the law library.
Now compare this tale of immediate access, and talking to inmates, with the draconian restrictions that are to be placed, according to the federal government’s plan, on Oklahoma Republican Jim Bridenstine and any media representatives when they visit the holding facility at Fort Sill. Bridenstine was denied access last week, and was originally told he could not enter the facility at Fort Sill until 21 July (transcript via NewsBusters):
[Rep. BRIDENSTINE]: The person who runs the facility [at Fort Sill] came down. I shook his hand. We had a brief conversation and he was very clear that no members of Congress were going to have access until the 21st, is what he said at the time.
[Jake] TAPPER: The media will get a tour of the facility Thursday [10 July]. They are not allowed to bring in recording devices or talk to any of the children. My understanding is you’ve been offered a tour that day, as well, but your schedule doesn’t allow it so you might be going this Saturday [12 July]. …
Like you said, they invited the media. The media is going to come on the 10th. But the media was — they were told they are not allowed to ask questions, they are not allowed to speak to the employees, they’re not allowed to speak to the medical staff, they’re not allowed to speak, of course, to the children. They’re not allowed to bring any recording devices.
And if you like pictures, HHS said we will provide pictures to you.
In sum, there’s something very wrong with this picture. It raises the possibility that a plan is already being worked behind the scenes to make the Murrieta Border Patrol station a moot point. The cozy relationship between authorities in California and the Obama administration seems to be in place to make that happen. One thing is for certain: in going straight to the Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino and asking it to manage a plan for taking in illegals, the federal government is crossing a rule-of-law Rubicon – with or without a field-office “furlough” to take ICE out of the link.
* The Limbaugh show transcript refers to the “Archdiocese” of San Bernardino, but San Bernardino is the seat of a diocese, not an archdiocese.
** For clarification, Monterey Park is in LA County. Ms. Chu does not represent the district in which Adelanto falls; it lies well to the east of LA in San Bernardino County. It was special-interest activists, not residents of Adelanto or San Bernardino County, who requested her to tour the detention facility – making the basis of access for her visit exactly like that of Jim Bridenstine in Oklahoma, who represents Tulsa but is not the representative for the Fort Sill area.