The most notorious government agency under the Trump presidency is surely U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. The president may not be able to build his wall, but he can turn a horde of goons loose on America's schools, churches, and homes.
In the spirit of bold policy ideas, allow me to propose a reform of ICE: Just get rid of it. There is simply no need to have an agency whose major task is rounding up and deporting otherwise law-abiding immigrants.
Here is a brief and highly incomplete list of atrocities committed by ICE over the past year, compiled by Sean McElwee: Arresting fathers while dropping their kids off at school; staking out churches to round up people seeking sanctuary; deporting a successful businessman who has lived in the U.S. for 40 years; attempting to deport a veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan over a minor drug conviction; deporting an HIV-positive man to Venezuela, where a collapsed medical system means almost certain death; arresting, jailing for two weeks, and attempting to deport a doctor and green-card holder who has lived in the U.S. for 40 years over minor expunged charges from when he was 17; deporting the sole caregiver of a 6-year-old paraplegic boy; and even secretly compiling ways to strip citizenship from legal residents. Across the country, families are being ripped apart for no reason by a police force that is, quite simply, an anti-immigrant militia.
ICE focuses special attention on its political enemies, arresting and deporting leaders of immigrant rights' groups (some of them are suing the agency over this practice). They even tracked down and arrested an unauthorized immigrant who had written anonymously in The Seattle Times about his longtime girlfriend being arrested. "You are the one from the newspaper," the agent said.
Of particular note is a case in Kent, Washington, where an unauthorized immigrant called the police when he thought someone was breaking into his house. The cops discovered his status and an outstanding administrative warrant (not a criminal one), arrested him, and promptly turned him over to ICE. Now he's being deported back to Honduras, where he has not lived for 14 years.
And he is far from the first such case. All across the country, the same message is being driven home: Unauthorized immigrants — or legal residents with unauthorized friends, families, or neighbors — should not call the police if they witness or suffer a crime, because law enforcement will prioritize deporting people over the safety of American communities.
Thus we see the violent, evil reality behind the "tough on crime" mask of reactionaries like President Trump. Creating zones of lawlessness is how you get gangs. But Trump and his cops are much more concerned with ethnic cleansing than with actually reducing crime — and that's if they aren't committing crimes themselves.
In fact, as usual with this thundering law-and-order administration, ICE is also lousy with criminals. Its top lawyer in Seattle has been charged with stealing seven immigrants' identities. The agency typically stuffs the people they round up into hellish dungeons where sexual assault is rampant. One asylum seeker, Laura Monterrosa, who alleges she was repeatedly raped by her jailers in an ICE facility, said she was tortured with solitary confinement over speaking up. She was told she would not be released until she recanted her testimony.
Let's just get rid of this rotten organization.
Now, abolishing ICE would have to be part of a broader immigration reform. The best way to start is with full legal amnesty for all unauthorized immigrants and an overhaul of the legal immigration procedure to make it drastically simpler and considerably easier to gain residence. (ICE's actual policing duties — fighting counterfeiting, arms trafficking, and so forth — can simply be handed over to the FBI or folded into a new agency.)
Of course, there would still have to be some sort of legal immigration structure, with officers to enforce the rules in some way. It will be much easier after sensible immigration reform when there will be vanishingly few unauthorized immigrants to even worry about. But more fundamentally, there is no reason to have a special group of cops to operate rape dungeons and go around demanding "papers, please" to every brown person they can see.
Law enforcement's focus should be on actual criminals, with immigration a secondary and largely administrative concern. Customs and Border Patrol (which has its own severe problems with abuse and out-of-control cops) can be reorganized into a new, far smaller agency, with a small force of officers who man border stations and so forth.
If America is to be the "land of the free," ICE has to go.