In the category of adding insult to injury for immigrants, a former chief Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) attorney who acted as the lawyer for ICE agents and oversaw deportation and asylum hearings in four states, is going to prison for stealing immigrants’ identities and using them to steal $190,000 from banks. Let’s just pause for a moment to absorb that this person was a lawyer, an officer of the court, who was witness to and party to the plight of immigrants in their deportation and asylum hearings, and he used that position and the information he had on individual immigrants for identity theft and bank theft. It would be difficult to see those actions as anything but predatory and despicable. This sort of corruption of someone working for ICE also lends strength to the growing call for ICE to be eliminated as an agency.
Raphael Sanchez, who worked for ICE for 17 years and became the chief ICE attorney in the Seattle office, pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft and wire fraud and was sentenced to four years in federal prison. While still working for ICE, Sanchez confessed to stealing the identities of at least seven immigrants due for deportation and used those identities to steal at least $190,000 from multiple banks. That confession of course ended his tenure at ICE and led to his conviction and sentencing. According to The Hill:
The former chief attorney for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Seattle has been slapped with a four-year prison sentence after stealing the identities of immigrants to defraud banks and credit card companies. The Justice Department said Raphael Sanchez had pleading guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft…Sanchez, 44, served as legal counsel for ICE agents and oversaw the deportation and asylum hearings for immigrants in four states. But after (almost) 17 years of working for the law enforcement agency, Justice Department officials say Sanchez confessed in a plea agreement to intentionally devising “a scheme to defraud aliens in various stages of immigration removal proceedings with ICE.” “Raphael Sanchez was entrusted with overseeing the honest enforcement of our country’s immigration laws,” acting Assistant Attorney General John Cronan told the publication in a statement. “Instead, Sanchez abused that trust, and capitalized on his position at ICE to exploit his victims and line his own pockets.”
ICE was established in 2002 under the auspices of the Homeland Security Act, which was a response to the September 11, 2001, attacks. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is one of the prominent voices calling for ICE to be eliminated or “reimagined”, based on the immigration controversy within the Trump administration. Asked on CNN what she thought of other people’s support for eliminating ICE, Gillibrand said, according to The Hill, “Well, I agree with it. I don’t think ICE today is working as intended. I believe that it has become a deportation force. And I think you should separate out the criminal justice from the immigration issues. I think you should reimagine ICE under a new agency, with a very different mission, and take those two missions out. So we believe that we should protect families that need our help, and that is not what ICE is doing today. And that’s why I believe you should get rid of it, start over, reimagine it and build something that actually works.” Other prominent Democrats, such as Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), have called for a full examination of ICE, but have not yet called for ICE to be eliminated. Protesters, including those in the Occupy ICE movement, lean more toward Gillibrand’s position, however, favoring an end or restructuring to the agency.
Surely it doesn’t speak well for ICE that one of their chief attorneys was stealing the identities of immigrants and using them to defraud banks for the purpose of theft. Those crimes represent such an abuse of power, and an abuse of access to identifying information, by an officer of the court no less, that it does make one wonder what level of ethical and legal oversight ICE exercises over its own employees.