There are a few things about ICE, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, that aren’t in doubt. First, it is in desperate need of reform and supervision, as there are agents engaged in outrageous conduct with no one preventing it, overseeing it, protecting undocumented immigrants (particularly children) in its custody from all manner of harm, from drugs to rape. It’s out of control, and there appears to be little interest in the Trump administration to deal with it.
But Abolish ICE, the trendy response to this abortion of an agency, doesn’t deal with the problems either. Without ICE, who watches the borders? Who prevents people from strolling in at will? It almost sounds like, dare I say it, open borders.
Or perhaps they mean abolish one enforcement agency and replace it with an entirely new one, where its agents are sweet and compassionate? At the New York Times, Sean McElwee tries to sell his unicorn.
In Minnesota, Ilhan Omar, who wants to replace Keith Ellison, who is running for attorney general, notes that ICE is relatively new. “ICE’s mission was created in 2002 — they’ve only been around for 15 years,” she told me. “In that time, they have grown to be an agency whose mission is to tear families apart and put fear into immigrant, refugee and undocumented communities. ICE has only become increasingly militarized, brutal and unaccountable.” For her, the call to abolish ICE is a demand to create an immigration policy “based in compassion.”
It’s correct that ICE was created in 2002. It’s a lie that ICE’s mission was created then. ICE was merely the renamed version of United States Customs and the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service when they were combined and placed under the new Department of Homeland Security. To say ICE has “only been around for 15 years” is to deliberately deceive. The name, yes. The agency, not even close. I remember sitting in a courtroom in EDNY right after the consolidation, when an INS agent I’d known for years showed up. He showed me his new, cool ICE shield, but he was the same agent.
Immigration has been a disaster for decades, maybe longer but I can only speak to my personal experience. And McElwee doesn’t entirely ignore this.
From the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act in 1996 to the Homeland Security Act of 2002, Democrats have voted overwhelmingly to help construct the apparatus that President Trump is using to engage in a campaign of mass deportation.
Democrats, no less than Republicans, were integral in making immigrants lives miserable. Part of it had to do with disproving the Republican cries that they were soft on crime and illegal aliens. Part of it had to do with the fact that nobody was of the view that undocumented immigrants didn’t present a significant problem, and that the ones convicted of crimes ought to be unceremoniously thrown out.
This presented terrible problems, but nobody shed tears back then, even when it involved someone who was here legally but not a citizen since he was a year old, for decades, with citizen spouse and children, a good job, paid taxes, was nailed for some trivial offense. The Dems were as harsh, if not harsher, than the Reps. And aside from their lawyers, no one gave a damn.
But this new “solution,” Abolish ICE, plays on the sad tears of the suddenly-discovered plight of our harsh treatment of immigrants combined with ignorance. Lying about ICE by pretending it didn’t exist until 15 years ago perpetuates and exacerbates the ignorance. Surveys about people’s views on immigrantion are foolish, since people have essentially no grasp of immigration laws and policies. They only know that the guy with his hands on the wheel at the moment failed his drivers test. So let’s ban the car.
If we were to Abolish ICE, would we replace it with NICE? We could give it a new name and pretend it was entirely different, but it would be a lie, just as it’s a lie that ICE’s “mission” was created in 2002. Or we could Abolish ICE and not replace it, but nobody with a clue thinks that won’t be a complete disaster.
America hates ICE with good reason. America doesn’t want open borders either. And nobody is better off when the argument is reduced to lies that make people stupider about immigration.