It’s time to shut down ICE


Ben Wilcox

Ava Ahmann, Magazine Editor

There are many hard truths about our society, but here are just three of them: we are a nation of immigrants, the US was founded on stolen land, and as humans beings we deserve the right to migrate. These truths establish a baseline for the logic behind the movement to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the glorified “cops” that terrorize and harrass immigrant communities.

On the surface, it is hard to dispute ICE as problematic; don’t they just arrest dangerous criminals and drug offenders with prior convictions? It warrants further examination.

ICE divides their numerous arrests into three major categories. Sixteen percent of ICE arrestees in 2017 had the prior conviction of driving under the influence of alcohol, and 15 percent had possessed or sold “dangerous drugs” such as opioids.

The third category, which constitutes 14 percent of arrestees, is comprised of immigration offenses such as illegal entry and false claims of citizenship. These arrests are characterized as non-criminal, as no crime other than illegal entry was committed. In 2017, arrests of non-criminal immigrants jumped 171 percent as the Trump administration enforced a zero-tolerance illegal immigration policy.

Barack Obama, dubbed “Deporter-in-Chief” by many immigrant advocacy groups, similarly used ICE as a tool to deport thousands of non-criminals.

ICE considers repeat offenders, and thus those who are susceptible to arrest, anyone with two convictions or a conviction and pending charge in any category. The categories span a wide range of possible infractions from “general crimes,” “larceny,” and “assault,” to “obstructing the police.”

Additionally, the Trump administration has combined “ICE fugitives,” undocumented immigrants who have received orders to leave the country but have yet to, a civil charge, with those with legitimate criminal charges. This allows ICE to report that 92 percent of deportations are the result of criminal convictions. In reality the number is closer to 70 percent.

Plainclothes Officers by ICE provisions are allowed to arrest immigrants at courthouses, a practice that spreads fear and silences an already vulnerable community. If you are in an abusive relationship, a victim of violence, or facing intimidation of any kind, the threat of deportation at court shouldn’t be an issue.

In a study published by the ACLU using interviews from law enforcement, judges, court employees, and other parties, it was found that courthouse arrests increased by 1200 percent in New York, and in Denver, Colorado 13 women decided to stop pursuing domestic violence cases against their abusers.

These arrests make it more difficult for justice to be served, and despite police detailing that it makes investigating domestic violence, human trafficking, and sexual assault much more difficult, ICE has maintained that they will continue this policy. They are also responsible for raids, and checking for papers on Greyhound buses, creating a culture of fear.

Plenty of organizations within the U.S. government have been abolished, ending programs and governmental bodies is natural. From 1917-1919, the Committee on Public Information produced propaganda in order to galvanize support for World War I, until it was abolished. The Agricultural Adjustment Administration, was abolished in 1942. The War Production Board was abolished in 1945, after producing over 185 billion dollars worth of arms and supplies for World War II. Purposes become outdated, and agencies break down   it’s a totally normal occurance.

President Trump himself wants to eliminate 19 federal agencies including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. Calling for their termination for budgetary reasons.

In 2016, ICE spent 3.2 billion dollars on identifying, detaining, and deporting undocumented immigrants. They also have a terrible track record when it comes to the accountability and transparency in operating detention facilities. In a report from the National Immigrant Justice Center, that reviewed the contracts of 94 detention centers, there was no discernable total cost of housing immigrants. We don’t know where our tax dollars are going.

These detention centers have also been criticized for instances of sexual assault. Between 2013 and 2017, immigrants filed 1,310 claims of sexual abuse at the hands of ICE agents. Earlier this year the agency filed for an application to the National Archives and Records Administration, which approves requests for records to be destroyed. The American Civil Liberties Union fought the application, concerned over intent to destroy evidence of sexual abuse.

In July, 19 high level ICE officials signed a letter asking the head of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen to abolish the agency. The officials explained that the focus of the organization has shifted, and their newfound reputation as a “deportation force” inhibits their ability to fight serious crime.

Founded after 9/11, ICE is was designed to replace the Immigration and Naturalization service (INS) and pursue terrorists and violent criminals who were in the country illegally. Clearly, the focus of the organization has been blurred. According to U.S. Customs and Border Control (CBP) in the fiscal year 2017, only 0.09 percent of undocumented immigrants were gang members.

ICE are no longer the organization they were designed to be. Instead, they have grown and expanded to the point where they are a physical representation of this country’s hatred and distrust of immigrants. The Department of Justice has no oversight when it comes to ICE, they are truly beholden to no one.

In 2016, 62 percent of asylum applicants were turned away following a grueling process that on average takes 180 days to complete and includes an interview, 12 pages of paperwork, and a biometric screening. There is no doubt that our immigration system is deserving of complete overhaul. There is also no doubt that so many of the immigrants that come to the US are escaping conflicts caused by our government’s heavy handed foreign policy and capitalistic greed.

Abolishing ICE is a logical step to confronting our dark history of settler colonialism and hypocritical backlash against immigrants. This is not a partisan issue, this isn’t even an anti-Trump issue, this is a human rights issue. It’s time to abolish ICE.