An Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deportation officer was fired last year because he forged the signature of a supervisor on arrest warrants for undocumented immigrants and, while he was definitely guilty of doing that, he also managed to prove that he wasn't alone.
Former ICE officer Brent Oxley's fought the agency for firing him and obtained documents that show supervisors have been handing out blank warrants to officers, among other things.
Internal emails and other ICE documents he obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, since reviewed by CNN, show that other officers across the five-state region where Oxley worked had improperly signed warrants on behalf of their supervisors -- especially on evenings or weekends. Some supervisors even gave their officers pre-signed blank warrants — in effect, illegally handing them the authority to begin the deportation process.
Unlike Oxley, who outright forged his supervisor's signature, the other officers generally signed for their supervisors after getting their permission via text or phone. But in such cases -- or when officers were given blank, pre-signed warrants -- it's unclear how closely or even whether a supervisor would have reviewed an individual case.
Legally, the signature on a warrant attests that an authorized supervisor reviewed it and determined that there was probable cause to believe the person named was deportable.
One wonders if cases involving American citizens being caught up in ICE's dragnet were caused by an officer using a blank, pre-signed warrant that was never reviewed by a supervisor before they were arrested.
For immigration lawyers and civil rights activists, the idea that their clients may have been arrested under a fraudulent warrant is obviously something they're going to want to explore.
"If there's evidence of that, that's a big deal," said Jeremy McKinney, a member of the executive committee of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, whose members represent clients in deportations and immigration matters. "That's the root of an illegal arrest."
I'm sure this issue is coming to a congressional committee hearing near you.