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Who Are the Regional ICE Office Directors and What Power Do They Have Over Deportations?

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We’ve seen it happen over and over again during the long months of the Trump Administration: an immigrant mother or father with US-citizen children, who has lived in the US for decades and committed no crimes, who has been checking in with ICE for years, who remains undocumented because there are no legal routes for them to correct their status, is deported. These deportations tear apart families and disrupt communities. Polls show that four out of five Americans oppose them. Who has the power to stop them?

Donald Trump does. So does the Secretary of Homeland Security — which was, up until recently, John Kelly, and is now acting Secretary Elaine Duke. Individual ICE officers, the men and women doing the actual arrests, have the power to decide who they pick up and who they don’t, who they give work permits and stays to, who must check in and how often.

And so do regional field office directors — 24 local heads of ICE in offices around the country who have discretionary power to stop unjust deportations. But in Trump’s mass deportation era, many are not using that power.

Meet Rebecca Adducci

Take, for example, Rebecca Adducci, Director of the Detroit ICE Field Office, which has jurisdiction over immigration cases in Michigan and Detroit. She’s been Field Director since at least 2010, and her handling of immigration cases and deportations has been varied — and often brutal.

In 2011, the Detroit field office was called out by advocates for being one of the worst-run offices in the country. Stories coming out of Detroit included one about a Michigan Dreamer who was detained with his mother and forced to watch while she was strip-searched. When his mother protested, the officer responded, “You’re lucky we don’t just shoot you in the head.” Other stories involved a six-month pregnant woman being refused medical care, children being stalked by ICE agents at elementary schools, and US citizens being shackled when ICE agents refused to accept their identification.

Advocates also called on Adducci to apply prosecutorial discretion to immigration cases, and apply common sense when a case called for it — as the Obama Administration and then-ICE Director John Morton directed. Adducci eventually complied, even signing orders of supervision like Jesus Lara’s in 2012, which allowed the immigrant father of four to stay in the country as long as he checked in every year.

Since the Trump Administration began, however, Adducci and her office have reverted back to practices that completely lack compassion. It was her agents who ate breakfast at an Ann Arbor restaurant, complimented the chef, and then walked into the kitchen to demand papers of the staff.  It is her agency that is attempting to deport Iraqi Christians to their death.  It is her agency that is deporting moms and dads like Lourdes and Jesus, who had been complying with all the requirements placed on them by her agency and contributing so much to their families and communities.

We highlight this history to underscore how much power, leeway, and discretion ICE field directors like Rebecca Adducci have. Immigrant members of our communities are being deported even though:

1) the vast majority of Americans don’t want them gone

2) it doesn’t make Americans safer to indiscriminately mass-deport hardworking mothers and fathers, when enforcement resources could be used elsewhere. In fact, mass deportations make Americans less safe

3) taxpayer dollars are being used for these removals even though they’re detrimental to American families and communities

Field directors like Rebecca Adducci — and her counterparts in 23 ICE offices around the country — have the power to halt these deportations. Advocates want them to use this power. Why have they so far, instead, agreed to be complicit to the agenda of a racist president who doesn’t care about separating families?

As Lynn Tramonte, Director of Ohio’s Voice, recently said:

When the media describes ICE as newly “unshackled” and unleashed upon the broader community, they are describing Rebecca Adducci.  The people being deported from Ohio and Michigan, their spouses and children, and all Americans outraged by these heartless deportations need to know her name.  She has the power to make different decisions, but instead she’s relishing in her newfound freedom to destroy families one by one. Ms. Adducci is a public figure, and we pay her salary.  The outpouring of support for Lourdes and Jesus make it clear that many Americans oppose these indiscriminate deportations, and do not want them carried out with our tax dollars and in our names.  She needs to know this.