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In Order To Carry Out Policy, ICE Needs 'Realistic' Guidance, Says Former Director

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In the wake of President Trump's executive orders on travel and refugees, a wave of immigration roundups occurred last weekend. The attention’s now on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency in charge of allowing people into this country and deporting others.

Sarah Saldaña ran it under the Obama administration. The longtime Dallas resident and former U.S. attorney talked about why it's difficult for ICE to carry out certain policies.

Interview Highlights: Sarah Saldaña…

…On her first thought on President Trump’s executive orders on travel and refugees:

“My first thought was one of disappointment. It struck me as being a little rushed. People in the field want to do the right thing. All the enforcement and removal folks – many of these people right here in Dallas – want to do the right thing and they need guidance and they need to know what it is the administration wants to accomplish.”  

…On how reality of President Trump’s request to hire 10,000 immigration officers:

Credit Krystina Martinez / KERA
Sarah Saldana led U.S. Immigration and Customs under the Obama administration for the last two years. She's now retired.

“In the letter of the directive, it is not realistic. I have no issue with the administration coming in and taking on its own priorities and viewing immigration in a different way. That’s their prerogative; they were elected by the people. But I would like to see it well thought-through in a timely manner that allows [ICE]…to properly train those people and give them the guidance they need to complete their job.

"I know we had had several hundred officers that had been authorized by Congress [when I was at ICE]. We had trouble filling those positions in a timely manner. Believe me, I heard it from the Hill when we weren’t moving fast enough. 10,000 is an ambitious platform.”

…On ‘sanctuary city policies’:

“There is no specific definition of a sanctuary city. San Francisco and New York are thought of as sanctuary cities. Their approach of enforcement to immigration law is different. Ours here in Dallas County, sometimes referred to as a sanctuary city, is also different. There are many cities that have more of a welcoming attitude towards immigrants than others, I can speak to that. The ones who shut the door in the face of ICE and refuse to cooperate? My personal opinion: that’s not a good thing.”   

Sarah Saldaña is a former U.S. attorney and retired director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter is KERA's vice president of news. He oversees news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News has earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.