The Department of Homeland Security's refusal to cooperate with Arizona's court-tested crackdown on illegal immigration has field agents fuming, FoxNews.com has learned.
Within hours of the Supreme Court on Monday upholding of Arizona's requirement that police officers verify with federal authorities the immigration status of people they stop if suspected of being in the United States illegally, the Department of Homeland Security issued a memo telling agents not to take action unless the people are criminals, have recently arrived or pose a threat to national security.
“Anyone that is determined to be a low-level threat is subject to being released back into the general population since ICE does not view them as criminals,” one DHS agent told FoxNews.com. “It saddened me to see that ICE is choosing to operate under a ‘business as usual’ mind set rather than seeing how they can work with Arizona to accomplish the goals that they both share.”
What DHS considers "discretion" in choosing which illegal immigrants to potentially deport is tantamount to a refusal to enforce the law, according to a contingent of Arizona lawmakers, who accused the Obama administration of "declaring war against Arizona" in a letter to ICE chief John Morton.
"Rather than work cooperatively with the states, as federalism requires, the administration unwisely decided to unilaterally and abruptly terminate multiple agreements under a program that fostered federal-state cooperation in tackling a very difficult public safety threat to Americans, reads the letter, from GOP Reps. Paul Gosar, Dave Schweikert and Trent Franks.
The agent who talked to FoxNews.com said his colleagues are as outraged as he is and that federal policy makes it impossible to catch illegal immigrants who are criminals, unless they are caught in the act.
“The biggest problem with their catch-and-release method is that ICE does not have an effective process for identifying detainees," he said. Most detainees do not carry identification on them and they voluntarily provide their name.
“This leads to a larger problem. ... We already know that there are difficulties with confirming identities of detainees, so how can ICE be sure that they are not putting a criminal back on the street?”
Last week, Obama announced that most young illegal immigrants would be allowed to stay in the country and get work visas, under certain conditions, including that they were not a national security threat.
The memo issued Monday keeps in place the prior policy of choosing which illegal immigrants can be targeted for deportation, even after the Supreme Court ruled part of Arizona's law constitutional.
“The court’s decision does not disturb U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) existing discretion in deciding which aliens should be taken into immigration custody or processed for removal from the United States,” the memo states.
Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio said the federal government's refusal to cooperate with his state's law is defacto amnesty.
“We don’t need the federal government," he told Fox News Channel on Tuesday. "We have state laws. The worst is that they [ICE] won’t even respond. This is amnesty."
Perry Chiaramonte is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @perrych