Topics: House of Representatives

Tennessee Rep. Diane Black demands answers on prohibited public advocate position

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Congress,Watchdog,Michal Conger,Immigration,House of Representatives

A Republican Congresswoman from Tennessee wants more information about Immigration and Customs Enforcement's immigrant "public advocate" position, which was defunded in March but which she says appears to remain unchanged in all but title.

"I write with serious concern that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has ignored current law that prohibits your agency from funding the position of 'Public Advocate,' " U.S. Rep. Diane Black wrote last week to John Sandweg, ICE's acting director.

ICE announced the controversial position in February 2012, describing it as "a point of contact for individuals ... who have concerns, questions, recommendations or other issues they would like to raise" about immigration proceedings, according to watchdog group Judicial Watch. Black, who introduced the measure to defund the position, called it "an ill-conceived lobbyist position" for illegal immigrants.

The measure was signed into law by President Obama on March 26 as part of the 2013 spending bill, but the position wasn't changed until April 1.

What's more, former public advocate Andrew Lorenzen-Strait appears to have the same job description under a new title, according to Black's office.

"Additionally, it appears that Mr. Lorenzen-Strait was retained and assigned a new title with no substantive changes to his job function. If true, this represents a serious violation of the public trust. ICE has a moral and legal responsibility to comply with the law and the will of Congress," she wrote.

Black requested information on how Lorenzen-Strait's job description has changed since April 1, as well as his employment status for the five days between his position being defunded and his title change.

"The sudden creation of a new position within your agency for Mr. Lorenzen-Strait casts further doubt on the idea that ICE has acted in good faith to comply with the law," she wrote.

Black requested a response from ICE by Oct. 7.

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