DHS photo

In some ways, the inauguration of Joe Biden rescued America from the Upside Down, where Donald Trump's malign influence made reality all wackadoodle. Suddenly, there were a lot of competent people in government, the White House held daily press briefings again, and there was little chance that a presidential tweet would urge everyone to tune in for a mass execution of enemies of the people on the South Lawn. And we've certainly left behind all that Trumpian talk of a "deep state," which for the past four years referred to career officials in government agencies. Or as Trump saw them, disloyal communists entrenched in the government with the sole mission of undermining Donald Trump, usually by telling him his latest whim might be illegal. From early on, Team Trump viewed most government agencies as full of ideological enemies, a threat that had to be neutralized.

Ah, but now that Joe Biden is trying to clean up Trump's mess, we're learning that his agenda of basic competence may face resistance, mostly in the Department of Homeland Security's immigration agencies like Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Not only were those agencies predisposed to like Trump's Deport Everybody policy, he expanded their ranks with loyalists. And as the New York Times reports, Biden, along with just-confirmed DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, may face some real difficulty getting people in DHS to accept the new administration's less brutish approach.


For instance, after a federal judge in Texas put a hold on Biden's plans for a 100-day moratorium on deportation last week, the Times reports, ICE agents got busy trying to deport people as quickly as possible, including taking steps to deport a Cameroonian man who fears he'll face torture if he's returned. The man's asylum claim was denied, but his attorney, Henry Hollithron, is still fighting to get it reviewed. Hollithron told the Times, "This is not what the Biden administration stands for. [...] That is definitely a holdover from the Trump era."

Making matters worse, former Trumpworld officials seem happy to encourage DHS employees to continue acting as if there's no new president, because Trump's approach to immigration was good and correct. Here's former Trump ICE Director Tom Homan pretty much justifying DHS folks becoming a Deep State of their own, because "There are people in ICE that agree with Trump's policies. [...] They want to do the job they took an oath to do."

So yeah, guess you could even call them Oath Keepers. Homan also bemoaned Biden's effect on the poor ICE agents' fee-fees, saying that Biden's executive orders on immigration had caused morale to be "flushed down the toilet," and predicting that ICE agents might actively seek to undermine the new president.

"That's the way everybody attacked the Trump administration, by leaking things," Mr. Homan said. "People now are taking a page out of that playbook. I think turnaround is fair play."

Oh no, please don't leak the orders to be nicer, and your refusal to do so.

The Times also talked to Trump's immigration obersturmbannf├╝hrer Stephen Miller, who explained that even if Biden and Mayorkas have different policy aims than Trump, "They are not going to be able to get people to change their deeply held convictions." Trumpists in DHS, he explained, "are going to make painfully clear to the politicals what the consequences are going to be if their advice is not followed."

The Times article also notes that just the day before the inauguration, former acting deputy secretary of DHS Ken Cuccinelli signed a labor agreement with the rabidly pro-Trump union that represents Border Patrol officers, which required that ICE's leadership consult with the union on any policy changes. The Times points out that

Under federal law, an agency chief has 30 days to cancel such an agreement once it is signed, after which it goes into effect. If the agreement stands, it could undercut Mr. Biden's directives to the enforcement agency, including guidance that took effect on Monday requiring ICE officers to focus arrests on violent offenders.

Sure was nice of Senate Republicans to hold up Mayorkas's confirmation for two weeks! He still has a little while to cancel that agreement, but Cuccinelli's last-minute fuckery left other landmines for the Biden team. That Texas lawsuit against Biden's deportation moratorium was also based in part on an agreement Cuccinelli signed with the state, requiring that DHS give Texas 180 days to weigh in on changes in immigration policies. The agreement was probably illegal, but that has to be hashed out in court. Now, the Times reports, Arizona, which signed a similar agreement with Cuccinelli, is suing to block the deportation moratorium too.

The article also points out that not everyone in DHS is likely to resist the end of the New Cruelty, since plenty of folks in the agency were tired of having a new acting head whatever every few months, and of sudden policy shifts being announced by tweet. Trump's brutal approach to immigration had actually led one smaller division of ICE, which mostly investigates smuggling, counterfeiting, and other non-immigration crimes, to formally leave the agency so it wouldn't be tarred by the terrible reputation ICE was getting.

And when it comes right down to it, ICE and CBP are law enforcement agencies, and they have to follow orders:

Gil Kerlikowske, a former commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, said in an interview that border agents would most likely respect the chain of command, no matter who was the leader of the agency; winning back the trust of the American public could prove the bigger challenge.

We're betting that if Mayorkas makes it clear to the public, and especially to DHS, that ICE and CBP aren't going to be allowed to violate human rights at will, that will go a long way toward winning back some public trust.

[NYT]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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