San Diego ICE – The troops are ignoring their bosses

Sunday, June 5th, 2016
By: Jonathan MontagJ.D.

In Band of Brothers, there is a story line where Captain Winters is ordered to send some of his troops across enemy lines to capture a German soldier to gather intel. Winters begrudgingly comes up with a plan and sends some soldiers and they are not successful and take casualties. He is ordered to try again. Realizing the ridiculousness of the order, he lies and says he tried again when he didn’t. We the viewers are led to believe that Winters did the right thing when confronted with an idiotic, suicidal order from Battalion.

The same thing is happening with ICE in San Diego, but it is not suicidal orders the troops are ignoring, but rather orders like “Read your mail,” or “Answer an inquiry,” or “Make a phone call.” It is quite astonishing that such simple orders are ignored with impunity.

Example Number 1: The officers handling detained aliens work at a detention center. The address is:

7488 Calzada De La Fuente
San Diego, CA 92154

A check with the U.S. Postal Service website shows this a perfectly functional mailing address.

You may have trouble tracking down this address because ICE, despite the facility being open for many, many months, has not updated its website yet and lists an old facility that the new one replaced. But that’s not the problem I’m addressing today.

The old facility, unlike the new one, did not accept mail, though the facility had PO Boxes. Mail to detainees got to them through the PO Box address very rapidly. ICE however, did not receive mail at its Post Office box – or did but would not pick it up regularly; perhaps after a week or more of delay. Apparently, no one was tasked with picking up the mail at the post office regularly. ICE officers insisted that the only way to reach them was through messenger – Fedex or UPS.

The San Diego ICE office has meetings with immigration attorneys through their attorney organization, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, where officers answer questions from attorneys that interact with them. This question was posed in June 2014:

What are the methods for sending a parole request to ICE at the CCA? A member contacted the (619) 710-8301 number and was told that using the PO Box 439020, San Diego, CA 92143, was an acceptable method to send a parole request. The member sent the request priority mail to this PO Box and ten days later, the ICE officer still did not receive it. The attorney contacted the officer who explained that sending anything through the PO Box explains why it has not been received. The way to deliver must be through UPS or FedEx (not institutions that are part of the federal family, I should add) to the street address, 446 Alta Road, Building 5400, San Diego, CA 92158. Is it really true that the street address does not work and the PO box is not effective as and mail is not checked for a week or more at a time? If requests need to be sent only by UPS or FedEx, could ICE put that information on the Parole Advisal and Scheduling Notification? Can parole requests be hand-delivered to the CCA or to ICE in downtown San Diego? Can ICE requests be scanned and delivered by email?

This was the answer from the highest level bosses of San Diego ICE:

For mailing correspondence to ODF, you can use any of the express companies (e.g., Fed Express, UPS, DHL) to ODF, 446 Alta Road, Suite 5400, San Diego, CA 92158. This way you can easily track delivery information by on-line or calling each express company. Another way is via our P. O. Box at the U.S. Post Office: ODF, P.O. Box 439020, San Diego, CA 92143-9020; mail is picked up daily by one of our LEO staff members. If you are close to the San Diego Federal Building, you can feel free to walk over to the 2nd Floor, Non-Detain Office, Suite 2242, and leave your mail to the attention of ODF. This staff member will place your mail in the ODF Box for the Mail Run which is picked-up daily by our LEO personnel and then hand-delivered to ODF. All mail upon arrival at ODF, if unless noted on the envelope, will be given to Mission Support Specialist for distribution to staff. Using the automated method of e-mail or scanning is very much acceptable. ODF Detained Unit developed an Outlook Mailbox for attorney G-28 forms, or any other requests sent to [email protected] If you have the name of the officer, please add this to the body of your e-mail. This is reviewed by the Deportation Officers and Enforcement Removal Assistants on a daily basis as well.

As they say on Family Feud, “Great answer.” Fedex us. UPS us. Mail to us. Email to us. Drop it off to us. Dagnabbit, we’ll get it. We’re the government and we’re here to help!

Not too long ago, I mailed a parole request to ICE. The shipping label I created online could easily be produced, confirming that the post office delivered to the address – 7488 Calzada De La Fuente. The next day, the post office tracking system reported:

[January 13] 8:22 a.m. Arrived at [recipient’s] Post Office (92154)

but then, ominously:

[January 13] 8:37 a.m. Forwarded

The packet was sent to another post office and a full twelve (12) (XII) (011101000111011101100101011011000111011001100101) days later:

[ January 25] 6:54 a.m. Delivered, Individual picked up at Postal Facility (92173)

So, Mr. ICE chief, despite your pronouncement, the mail does not work as a means to swiftly dispatch a package to ICE at your detention facility.

Some one-off glitch, you may think. Accidents happen. The post office goofs up. Officers get sick. Don’t rush to a conclusion. Except, in its instructions to people making parole requests, ICE writes: SEND BY UPS OR FEDEX ONLY TO THE ATTN OF THE OFFICER. DO NOT SEND BY USPS! (Underscoring and italicizing in the original).

Forget the post office. Forget email. Forget dropping it off. Forgot what the boss told you. We not only are going to do things the way we want to instead of what we are told to do and tell the public we do, and we will even write it down. And why won’t ICE accept mail where the post office is willing to deliver it and where the boss says they’ll accept it and instead re-routes it for pick up twelve days later? Who knows?

Example Number 2: This is not the only example of apparent insubordination. ICE has an email address for inquiries. A senior local ICE official answers at least some of these emails. I emailed a question on April 13: “As per your instructions, I sent a request to the Assistant Field Office director requesting re-consideration of a denied parole request. I cannot get through by telephone. (The official has a telephone number but no one has ever answered it when I called.) Has there been a decision?

A senior ICE official answered: Your request has been forwarded to the responsible person. If you don’t hear anything in a reasonable time, let me know.

I got a call from a lower-level answer saying it is not his decision to make and I should wait for the decision. I never got an answer. Never

Example Number 3: On March 14, 2016, after not being able to reach an officer about returning a client’s green card at the end of her case, I emailed the ICE email address asking about how to get the green card back. I got an email back from a senor official on March 15 saying that I should hear from someone soon. Having heard nothing, I called and reached no one. I emailed twice again, on march 24 and April 4. On April 8, I got a reply from a senior official – a particular officer will contact me should contact me. Otherwise, contact the officer. I called this officer on April 13, April 15, April 21, and left messages. No human ever answered the phone. No one ever contacted me.

Here’s what I think. ICE can go about things one of two ways:

Way #1: We are a law enforcement organization and we do what we want. Don’t call us. We’ll call you if we want to or need something from you. We provide you no services or information or guidance or help or warning or any cooperation whatsoever. As Judge Wapner would say, if you don’t like it, sue us.

Way #2: We understand you are navigating a bewildering system we hardly understand at times. Innocent people get caught up in it. We provide you a list of phone numbers and emails and endeavor to keep communication lines open because that is the American way and it often leads to more efficient outcomes to all of us. When we communicate and work together, everyone wins.

What we have now is ICE saying that they are operating under Way #2, but are actually acting in Way #1.

A client who was in the past incarcerated in one of the world’s most oppressive countries for political reasons got incarcerated by ICE. The client told me that the attitudes of the jailers was the same in both places. He saw no difference. His observation did not make me proud to be an American or a person working in this system. Posted June 5, 2016.


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