By Michael Sheridan
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
The head of the nation's Immigration and Customs Enforcement says "no" to amnesty, despite a union's claim to the contrary.
Director John Morton denies the Obama administration favors giving amnesty to illegal immigrants, and says his agency is doing all it can to deport those who have entered this country illegally.
"The President doesn't support amnesty, the [Secretary of Homeland Security] doesn't support amnesty, I don't support amnesty," Morton told Neil Cavuto on FOX Business Network Wednesday night.
The dust-up over amnesty began with an 11-page memo that leaked recently, suggesting the administration would move to authorize a sweeping legalization of illegal aliens.
The National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents thousands of ICE field agents, voted unanimously last week in favor of a "vote of no confidence" in Morton and his leadership as a result of the memo.
The union feared the ICE chief had "abandoned the Agency's core mission of enforcing United States Immigration Law and providing for public safety, and have instead directed their attention to campaigning for programs and policies related to amnesty," union president Chris Crane said in a statement.
The Obama administration quickly dismissed the memo.
"The White House doesn't support amnesty," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said more than a week ago, "and I think people that support comprehensive immigration reform don't support amnesty either."
On Wednesday, Morton described the undated memo as a "draft," and said he was "unaware" of it before reports surfaced in July.
"It wasn't an ICE memo," he said. "I can tell you without question, there is no plan afoot to grant deferred action to every single illegal alien in this country. That is not the position of ICE."
The ICE chief argued that his agency is doing all it can to capture and deport illegal immigrants who commit additional crimes, which it considers a priority over those who are living here peacefully.
"We have resources from Congress to remove about 400,000 people a year," Morton said. "We have done more with these resources than any other Administration in the history of this country."
Since the beginning of 2010, ICE has deported some 279,035 illegal immigrants, according to the agency.
"There is no administration in the history of this country that has removed more people from the United States," Morton said.