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Chief opponent of whistleblower rights in the House defends ICE whistleblowers

Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has come out in support of 10 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents who filed a lawsuit challenging the administration’s decision to grant temporary legal status to up to 1.7 million children of undocumented immigrants.

In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Smith asked Napolitano to “take steps to ensure” that the agents “do not suffer retaliation – employment-related or otherwise” for filing a federal lawsuit to overturn the administration policy, the Houston Chronicle reports.

“Such retaliation would have a chilling effect on future lawsuits brought by government employees who witness waste, fraud, abuse, mismanagement, illegality or dangers to health and public safety,” Smith warned in his letter.

“These agents should be considered `whistleblowers’ who came forward to protect the public’s interest and maintain integrity in government programs. They deserve protection from DHS efforts to stop this lawsuit and silence their voices.”

Smith’s letter comes at a crucial time: Congress is currently negotiating the details of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, which it failed to enact for the past thirteen years. Even more, the bill’s public interest lobbyists have described Smith as the main opponent of crucial, long-sought due process reforms for whistleblowers: the right to a jury trial and the ability to appeal one’s case away from the whistleblower-hostile Federal Circuit.

Moreover, Smith is campaigning on “border security” and “rule of law” – two values that would be greatly protected by a whistleblower bill with real teeth.

Perhaps now would be a good time to ask Smith why he opposes real due process rights for the very agents he is championing in his letter to DHS. Otherwise, it could not be said that the current version of the WPEA is by far the best protection federal employees will ever enjoy, could it?

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