Capitol Solutions with U.S. Rep. David Young

Congressman David Young -- CROPPEDBy U.S. Rep. David Young
Iowa’s Third Congressional District


This was an odd week in Washington; a senior government official shocked the nation with an honest answer to a question I asked her. While I was questioning Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Sarah Saldaña during a hearing, she interrupted me and confirmed what many have long feared: the Obama Administration expects its directives and policies to take precedence over the laws of the land. Let me take you back to explain how we got to that point.

As your representative in Washington, DC, one of my responsibilities is to attend congressional hearings. I ask a lot of questions at these hearings because I am always looking for ways to make our government more accountable. When I am home in Iowa each weekend, I am asked why Washington cannot live by the same rules as the rest of us. I hear you and share in your frustration.

This week I continued to ask questions. When Director Saldaña appeared before one of the subcommittees I serve on, the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, I took this opportunity to ask her about President Obama’s recent comments on immigration. The president said, “If somebody is working for ICE and there is a policy and they don’t follow the policy, there are going to be consequences to it.” He was commenting on whether ICE agents should they follow the law rather than his directives and policies.

The purpose behind my question was straightforward: I wanted to know how far the president and his top officials at the Department of Homeland Security and ICE would be willing to go. I sure got my answer.

I told Director Saldaña that if I had policies or directives that were contrary to the law I would understand if my employees did not want to follow them. I would expect them to follow the law first.

Director Saldaña interrupted me to say, “That is where you and I probably have a fundamental disagreement.”  She went on to say that she expects those under her to follow her orders, not the law.

America was founded on the principle that no person is above the law and I take that very seriously. When the Director of the second largest federal law enforcement agency, and a former U.S. Attorney, believes that officers sworn to defend the Constitution should follow her policies instead of the law, you know there is something deeply wrong.

It does not stop there, ICE agents have reported feeling threatened and intimated by their superiors for simply trying to obey federal law. In some cases they have even faced suspensions. Morale is low – employees up and down the line do not know who they can trust because they cannot rely on the plain letter of the law. Surveys show that of all the federal agencies, ICE currently ranks among the lowest in employee satisfaction.

The mismanagement, dysfunction and distrust do not end at ICE, it is the entire Department of Homeland Security. Director Saldaña’s statement from this past week is just the latest in a disturbing trend of behavior from high ranking officials in this Administration, and it must end. Iowans deserve better from their federal government and I will continue fighting to hold them accountable.