Lucas Guttentag: A USCIS Appointee with a Career Devoted to Hamstringing Immigration Enforcement and Controls

The polls are in and it doesn’t look good. Public approval for the president is at an all time low, and folks now trust Republicans more than Democrats to handle immigration issues by large margins. Meantime, deportations are plummeting because the Obama Administration does not want to enforce the law.

To build public confidence in the credibility of the immigration system, the administration should be working to hire people with impeccable professional credentials free of bias or ideological taint. No such luck in the case of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a division of the Department of Homeland Security.

Consider the hiring of Lucas Guttentag – just about the last person who could be counted on to ensure a robust application of immigration law, scrutiny of immigration applications and the facts behind them.  Guttentag has just been named as a “senior counselor” to the newly-confirmed head of USCIS Leon Rodriguez – and in doing so, the partisan Rodriguez has chosen a man whose entire career has been spent working to degrade and decimate interior U.S. immigration law enforcement. Guttentag is the Founder and former Director of the ACLU’s Immigrants Rights Project.

Guttentag is a pleasant fellow and one can recognize his willingness to forgo the money to be made in Big Law to spend his career in public work. But….just what has he been up to?

Over the years, Guttentag has been a fixture in one class action suit after another, challenging in federal courts nearly every attempt by Congress to try to rationalize the immigration system and make the law enforceable. The goal? Make it as hard as possible to the government to remove ineligible aliens. For example, he was front and center working to prevent both the State of Arizona and Hazelton, Pennsylvania, from enacting laws designed to discourage illegal immigration. He has fought the government’s ability to detain illegal alien criminals who won’t be accepted by their home countries and worked to free enemy combatants who are United States citizens. Guttentag challenged a wide range of state efforts to preclude illegal aliens from access to public benefits, fought to prevent states from helping verify an alien’s status prior to providing state benefits, and challenged Congress’ mandatory detention requirements. Over the years, Guttentag has sought to ensure asylum provisions are unworkable and can be used to delay deportation, litigated to limit the ability of both the federal government and states to remove criminal aliens, and sought to limit even a state’s ability to ensure that employers use the national E-verify system.

In short, Guttentag’s entire career has been exclusively calculated to try to limit the government’s ability to manage immigration flows.  He has challenged nearly every procedural effort to rationalize and streamline immigration adjudications to make them effective in actually removing criminal and illegal aliens.

And because of “fee shifting” statutes, we taxpayers have actually subsidized this non-stop ACLU attack on the immigration control system.

Many times, these class action lawsuits produce settlements with the government that functionally result in a breakdown in law enforcement and undermine the intent of Congress.  The reason? Neither courts nor bureaucrats who approve these settlements have any real stake in the outcome. This is the result when there is a separation between authority and responsibility.

Consider the  Texas School Case, Plyler v. Doe, as a case in point. Although it did not involve Guttentag, this suit brought by like-minded foes of immigration enforcement produced a stunning Supreme Court mandate that all illegal alien students get taxpayer-financed public education. When the Supreme Court issued this decree, it forced an unending taxpayer commitment to pay for millions upon millions of future illegal alien pupils with no suggestions on how to pay. A quick glance at public education in America today and the newer demands for in-state college tuition for illegal aliens tells you all you need to know.

Plyler was part of a continuing campaign by ACLU-related entities to eliminate any state role in verifying immigration status before providing state benefits. The effort to encourage illegal immigration through state accommodation and benefit has been a key part of the advocates’ efforts to destroy U.S. immigration enforcement. And Guttentag has been front and center for decades.

Guttentag is happy to spend your money. He believes states are free to accommodate, reward and encourage illegal immigration, but these same states cannot even seek cooperation from the federal government to ensure effective immigration law enforcement. The litigious and ideological Guttentag, who comes out of Berkeley and the National Lawyers Guild, simply claims that all interior immigration enforcement has the tendency to produce “racial profiling,” a term practically invented by the ACLU. This claim has been the convenient mask behind the ACLU’s agenda to render our immigration laws unenforceable.  The result? A massive illegal alien population in the United States in 2014.

Looking over the list of cases Guttenberg has been involved in, it is no exaggeration to say he has helped to anchor nearly every challenge to effective immigration enforcement of the past 30 years. His work has short-circuited any effective effort by Congress to streamline deportations into a workable system or by any state or local government attempt to conserve taxpayer dollars for those who have a right to be in the country.

Why was he appointed to help USCIS? And why would Guttentag – who enjoys a comfortable late-career job as a law professor – join the Obama Administration at this late date? No doubt he’s a key man to plan Obama’s massive immigration power grab. No doubt he’ll do a good job. No illegal alien will be left behind. Only the civil rights of the American people will be thrown over – again! USCIS must not lose all credibility with the American people, but sadly this is where we are heading.

When Congress first sought to split up the old Immigration and Naturalization Service into separate parts, FAIR objected to placing immigration services in a separate entity (now USCIS) from the enforcement wing. Our concern was that such an agency eventually would be “captured by the opposition.”

Surely such an appointment is in conflict with the mission of USCIS. Surely such a selection should warrant serious public scrutiny. The composite picture of Guttentag’s career is one that is hostile to the firm application of U.S. immigration rules and procedures. Doesn’t this Administration have any sensitivity to appearances regarding its impartiality, its motives and its credibility?

Cross-posted at ImmigrationReform.com

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