A DHS directive from December 21, 2012, decreed that ICE agents could act against illegal immigrants only in limited circumstances — mainly if an illegal immigrant was previously charged with a serious crime or was physically caught crossing the border.

The effect, according to Sessions’s office, has been that many habitual immigration violators and the vast majority of illegal immigrants in the United States face no threat of deportation. “The Administration’s priorities,” Session’s writes, “have therefore provided an executive amnesty not only to the great majority of the 12 million living her illegally today . . . but to those who will violate immigration law tomorrow. It is an open invitation for a future immigrant to overstay a visa, or enter the U.S. illegally, knowing that they will be immune from enforcement as long as they avoid being convicted of a felony or other serious crime once here.”

In Texas, for example, ICE routinely releases immigrants who are not considered a threat to safety. In 2011, an ICE officer was reportedly told that he would face disciplinary action for attempting to issue a Notice to Appear to an illegal immigrant. “Instances like these are not the exception, but the rule,” Session writes. “DHS has decided that the Administration’s ‘priorities’ trump the immigration laws passed by Congress.”