Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has long been an unpopular agency within immigrant communities, but as the Trump administration continues to crack down on deportations, there has been an increased urgency among many on the left to abolish the agency altogether.
ICE agents have become, to many, the face of the administration’s worst impulses. They’re America’s “Gestapo.” They’re a “rogue agency.” Rumors and reports of ICE raids have rippled through communities and social media with regularity; arrests of parents, recorded on their children’s cellphone cameras, have provoked nationwide outrage.
ICE was created post-9/11 with the Department of Homeland Security. Prior to its existence, no such agency existed that would deport individuals solely for living in the U.S. without documents.
So in the 2000s, the US started deporting more immigrants than it ever had before. And for the first time, a large number of those deported were unauthorized immigrants with no criminal record, who were deported just because they were unauthorized. For the first time, in other words, simply being an immigrant without papers in the US carried a real risk of deportation.
The agency is an extremely new one, and so it shouldn't be so radical to believe that it should be abolished less than 20 years later. ICE developed an awful reputation of abuse and terror that many believe should be enough to justify its elimination.
Sean McElwee of The Nation takes it a step further, decrying mass deportation and the work that ICE does is akin to "ethnic cleansing" and to allow ICE to operate is fundamentally wrong.
But others argue ICE has an important role to play in national security. California Sen. Kamala Harris defended ICE in cracking down on undocumented immigrants who commit serious crimes, proclaiming "ICE has a purpose. ICE has a role. ICE should exist."
And ICE Director Tom Homan says 9 out of 10 people deported do in fact have a criminal record. It seems perfectly reasonable that an agency should exist to get bad people out of the country and monitor those who are here. ICE was created post-9/11 so that authorities would know who was in the country, and expel those who could cause harm. Abolishing ICE is not the answer.
"Let's make something clear: there's no prerequisite that an alien has to commit yet another crime when they get to the United States to have the law enforced upon them," he said.
Homan said "more people will die" trying to come to the United States over the Mexican border if they believe they can reach a state where they will be shielded from deportation.