July 12, 2006, - 10:21 am
EXCLUSIVE: Baseball & Illegal Aliens: How Immigration’s John Torres is Soaking Taxpayers for Tommy Lasorda (& Himself)
By Debbie Schlussel
Question: What do immigration enforcement and baseball have in common?
Answer: Tommy Lasorda and the $30,001-50,000 of your tax money Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is paying him to speak at a waste of time confab of ICE Detention and Removal Operations officials from around the country.
Beginning Monday, about 60 ICE officials–most of them regional chiefs and deputy chiefs of ICE’s Detention and Removal Operations–will spend the week listening to Lasorda and other endless speeches and eating steak dinners, all courtesy of you, the American taxpayer. That includes the two travel days that have been allotted for this exercise in waste and abuse.
What does Lasorda–whose most prominent professional experience beside baseball is serving as a spokesman for weight loss drink Slimfast–know about immigration? Nothing–unless you count importing Latino foreign nationals to play for him on the baseball diamond.
The event–for which you will also be paying $49 per day in per diem expenses, four nights of hotel stays, and roundtrip airfare per ICE attendee–begins Monday night with a steak dinner ($50 per plate, courtesy of–you guessed it–you!) and a speech by Lasorda. The speakers bureau that represents him sets the baseball figure’s fees at up to $50,000 (minimum $30,001), and we’ve confirmed with sources that ICE will, indeed, be paying Lasorda that amount. In addition to that, sources say that ICE will pay for chauffeur-driven transportation to and from Lasorda’s California home to the airport and to and from the Kansas City airport to the hotel, as well as first-class, round-trip airfare.
The conference was organized by ICE Director of Detention and Removal Operations (DRO) John Torres to promote, well, himself. It’s not that Torres’ Field Office Directors (FODs) and their deputies want to waste a week at this event, away from catching and deporting illegal aliens. Torres made their attendance mandatory. Not mandatory, but still paid for by you, are the professional photographer ICE is also transporting to the event from Dallas and the photos Mr. Torres will be posing for with each ICE attendee. Torres does not have enough money to house apprehended illegal aliens, yet he can afford to fly an ICE employee to this event to serve as full-time tax-paid bartender in a tax-funded hospitality suite for the duration of the conference.
ICE’s DRO has never had such a conference. But Torres–who wants to head up the Department of Justice Prisoner and Alien Transport System (“Con Air”)–is desperate to promote and save himself. To do the trick, he snared FOX News Channel’s E. D. Hill to speak at and cover the event on the news network.
Plucked from the INS Office of Investigations, Torres has no experience in detention and removal of illegal aliens. His incompetence was manifested in a scathing Homeland Security Inspector General report on DRO, withheld from the public and then finally released in May. The report cited DRO’s release to the great American abyss of hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens who came from terrorist-host nations, had serious criminal records, or both. Torres has done little to address the problems cited in the report.
Torres is also under scrutiny over a series of controversial appointments he has given to unqualified friends and cronies, while demoting or transferring agents with detention and removal experience out of those positions. He is under investigation over a special position he created for a woman with whom he is reportedly having an extramarital affair. She is from Kansas City, the site of the Lasorda ICE event and the location of the new position Torres has offered her. Torres created a super-secret “career review board” in order to supercede standard hiring of the most qualified detention and removal candidates for positions.
The event is being held with the approval of and attendance by Assistant Homeland Security Secretary for ICE Julie L. Myers (a/k/a “The ICE Princess”) and the site of the conference is also her hometown, which she frequently visits. So much for her testimony to a Senate committe pledging to rein in ICE’s finances and demand fiscal accountability. Although Myers wasted ICE money to hire her own personal attorney from Yale, ICE’s Office of the Principle Legal Advisor will be attending. They might as well have something to do on the taxpayer’s dime, since she isn’t allowing them to do their job for her.
The conference is reminiscent of then-INS Commissioner John Ziglar’s planned wasteful conference in San Francisco, the same weekend as his son’s wedding, also in San Francisco. He left the INS soon after, and Myers will soon leave to give birth.
Also in attendance at the event will be other ICE officials such as Director of Investigations Marcy Forman-Friedman, who recently wrote a memo to ICE agents telling them to release illegal aliens without “derogatory” criminal records. Another conference attendee, John Clark–ICE’s 2nd in command–has his own problems. He orchestrated a deal for ICE not to discipline his buddy–a top ICE official convicted of a sex crime against a minor–and is, like Torres, under investigation over promising a promotion to an ICE clerical employee with whom he had a relationship.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is also expected to make an appearance at this event. And if he does, that will be the symbolic icing on the cake. He is ultimately in charge of and responsible for the capture and deportation of illegal aliens. And he is aware of this wasteful conference paid for by tax dollars meant for alien apprehension, not Tommy Lasorda.
The thousands of dollars spent for the week-long ICE party would have been better spent on the annual salary for two additional ICE detention and removal agents. Or more ICE bedspace to house apprehended aliens, sorely insufficient right now, according to the Inspector General report.
But desperate Homeland Security and ICE simply aren’t serious about stemming the tide of illegal aliens. Adam Ant was right: Desperate but not serious. And that’s the whole Lasordid affair.
Contact John Torres. Tell him what you think of paying Tommy Lasorda thousands from the Immigration Enforcement budget. E-mail or Phone him: 202-514-0078 or 202-514-8663; Fax: 202-353-9435.
**** UPDATE, 07/13/06: Check out ICE’s spin campaign in response to this column. ICE is doing the only thing its incompetent execs know how to do when confronted with their own wrongdoing: deny, deny, deny. ****
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