FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
February 17, 2021
Government Accountability Project Praises DHS Secretary Mayorkas for Acting on Whistleblower’s Warning to Disapprove Dubious Agreements with ICE Union
WASHINGTON – On February 16, the Department of Homeland Security disapproved labor-management agreements intended to hamstring the Biden administration entered into by former political appointee Kenneth T. Cuccinelli just before he resigned from office. By law, heads of federal agencies have 30 days from the date of signing to disapprove labor-management agreements; if they do not disapprove, the agreements automatically go into effect. In this case, Cuccinelli signed the agreements on January 19, 2021, his last full day in office, making February 18 the deadline for disapproval. DHS disapproved with two days to spare.
Government Accountability Project’s client, a current federal employee, blew the whistle on Cuccinelli’s last minute abuse of authority. In a complaint filed on February 1, 2021, Government Accountability Project notified the Office of Special Counsel, the DHS Office of Inspector General, and Congress. The complaint pointed out that Cuccinelli lacked the legal authority to sign the agreements, that the agreements conferred on the union – one which had endorsed former President Trump’s re-election – “extraordinary power and benefits far more than what DHS agreed upon with its other employee unions which did not endorse President Trump…” and that the agreements would effectively “indefinitely delay changes to immigration enforcement policies.” The complaint warned that if the DHS did not disapprove by the February 18 deadline they would automatically go into effect, thus cementing the legacy of the prior administration.
This disclosure, first reported on by The New York Times, sparked concern and condemnation from both immigration justice groups and good government organizations. Over 100 organizations sent a letter to current DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas urging him to disapprove the agreements before they could go into effect and prevent the administration’s efforts to make much-needed changes to the immigration system.
We represent numerous whistleblowers who have raised concerns about egregious abuses under ICE’s jurisdiction, including
- dangers to children in ICE detention;
- ICE’s widespread use of solitary confinement on medically vulnerable and mentally ill detainees
- failures of ICE contractors to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to detainees, workers and the public; and
- the referral of immigrant women detainees at Irwin County Detention Center to an ICE-contracted doctor who performed unnecessary hysterectomies and other gynecological procedures without fully informed consent.
Government Accountability Project Senior Counsel David Seide, who filed the complaint on behalf of the whistleblowers, stated:
“We are gratified that the head of the agency disapproved before it was too late.”
Government Accountability Project Senior Counsel Dana Gold, who serves as lead counsel for several DHS whistleblowers, commented:
“We are relieved that Secretary Mayorkas disapproved the late-hour, politically-motivated agreements with the ICE union disclosed by our client that would have disabled urgently needed reforms to address harmful immigration policies and practices. We are further gratified that more than 100 immigration justice and good government groups recognized the importance of this latest whistleblower’s disclosures. By quickly acting together to ensure that Secretary Mayorkas acted before the new administration’s hands were tied, they served as important watchdogs to guarantee that reforms to address the harms of the last administration can be addressed without political interference or restraint.”
Contact: Andrew Harman, Government Accountability Project Communications Director
Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, Government Accountability Project’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, Government Accountability Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.