ICE meltdown: Agency lawyer sues over ‘purge,’ harassment


CATCH AND RELEASE?: An attorney at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is suing the government, alleging that politics are undermining the agency’s mission and demoralizing its employees.

By Kenric Ward |

A career federal lawyer is suing the Department of Homeland Security for freeing criminal aliens under broad “prosecutorial discretion” rules. For pushing back against the policies, the attorney alleges she was subjected to vulgarity-laced harassment by her superiors.

Patricia Vroom’s 67-page complaint accuses her employer, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an arm of DHS, of:

Ignoring the law by routinely releasing and dismissing charges against convicted felons in the country illegally.

Ordering Vroom to implement the Arizona Identity Theft Initiative, whose purpose was to drop and release hundreds of cases of illegal immigrants convicted of felony identity theft in the state.

  • Launching a “purge” of senior chief counsels, targeting them for “harassment … public humiliation and brutal scapegoating” in order to place cronies in those key positions to carry out administrative policy changes.
  • Forcing Vroom to drop a slam-dunk removal case against an immigrant convicted of falsely claiming U.S. citizenship on two occasions in order to register to vote. A supervisor derided her for not understanding the prosecutorial discretion and “efficiency” goals of the administration.
  • Criticizing Vroom for giving too much “pushback” on a 2013 order to release criminal aliens under the “Criminal Alien File Review Project,” in which 2,200 ICE detainees were released, ostensibly due to budget mismanagement by the agency in Washington, D.C.

John Sandweg, former acting head of ICE, reportedly “screamed” to Vroom’s supervisor that the Phoenix office, which she ran, was “all f***ed up” for not implementing prosecutorial discretion to headquarters’ satisfaction.

When a number of attorneys objected to the release of a particular criminal alien, an ICE supervisor responded, “We don’t give a s*** about that. Let it go.”

“The complaint has enough juicy scenes for a night-time television drama, but what it reveals about the Obama administration’s reckless disdain for immigration enforcement is especially troubling,” said Jessica Vaughn, a policy analyst with the Center for Immigration Studies.

Vroom’s lawsuit names several senior ICE managers, including Peter Vincent, the agency’s principal legal adviser and senior counselor for international policy. Vincent supervised 1,000 ICE attorneys until he resigned in late October.

In the complaint, Vincent is accused of numerous instances of sexual harassment.

DHS spokeswoman Marsha Catron told Watchdog on Wednesday:

“We are reviewing the allegations in the complaint, which largely refer to events from 2012 and 2013 concerning workplace environment and various personnel decisions taken by key officials, some of whom have since left the department.

“The leadership of both DHS and ICE take these allegations seriously and when founded will always take the appropriate disciplinary action,” Catron said in a statement.

Kenric Ward is a national reporter for and chief of its Virginia Bureau. Contact him at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward