The case for abolishing ICE
There is a growing backlash against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in America.
The movement has been fueled by President Trump's divisive "zero tolerance" policy toward illegal immigrants, and the abhorrent practice of detaining immigrant children who have been separated from their parents. Many appalled protesters are looking for someone to be mad at besides Trump, and while ICE isn't responsible for rounding up and separating immigrant families at the border (that's Border Patrol), the anger being directed at ICE is warranted. It is an expensive, abusive, and unnecessary agency. We should get rid of it.
ICE has only existed for 15 years, during which time America's spending on immigration enforcement, tracking, and surveillance has swelled like a tumor. The U.S. spent $187 billion on immigration enforcement between 1990 and 2013, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Deportations increased more than tenfold between 1990 and 2011. And ICE spends $2 billion every year to hold immigrants in private detention centers known for human rights abuses. One report found that, over seven years, ICE workers were accused of roughly 600 instances of sexual and physical abuse in detention centers. This is made worse when you realize that private contractors have been benefiting from the detention centers.
We now have a tangled monster of a system that incentivizes indefinitely holding people who have committed a civil infraction by crossing the border. We are spending a lot of money to punish families for nonviolent offenses — for doing a perfectly rational thing like trying to find more work, or trying to get their children out of violent, cartel, civil war-ridden countries.
Why do we even need ICE? The agency's main job is to find and apprehend illegal immigrants who are already in the country. In theory, this is different from Border Patrol, which is meant to patrol, well, the border, but technically can operate anywhere within 100 miles of the border. As the American Civil Liberties Union has frequently pointed out, two-thirds of Americans live within 100 miles of the border, which means two-thirds of Americans are already under the jurisdiction of both ICE and Border Patrol. This essentially makes ICE, and its $3.8 billion annual budget, redundant. I can't think of anything ICE does that brings added value to the country, but I can point to numerous instances of the agency unnecessarily harassing Americans.
An increasingly large number of Americans seem to agree. It's not just fringe organizations like Antifa, social anarchist groups, and sundry leftists organizing protests and staging sit-ins at ICE locations, demanding the agency be dismantled. Serious, mainstream politicians, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), have thrown their weight behind the movement.
This is a big deal. It wasn't so long ago that Democrats themselves were vowing to crack down on illegal immigration. During his presidency, Bill Clinton helped create many of the laws we still use to deport people. Roughly 2.9 million people were deported on Barack Obama's watch. Back in 2005, before she began trying to sound vaguely humanitarian, Hillary Clinton was "adamantly against illegal immigrants." The fact that there is a palpable fight going on within the Democratic Party over how daring to be on the issue of abolishing a government agency tasked with cracking down on illegal immigrants means the party is changing.
This new push by liberals is unusually on point. The core demands — no more ICE, no more criminalized migration, and no more family separations — are surprisingly focused, considering how disjointed and unfocused other large leftist movements have been. Take the Women's March, for example. Ostensibly the participants were marching for women's health care and against sexual assault braggadocio in presidents. But they seemed an awful lot like disgruntled Hillary Clinton fans, mad that their candidate lost. What, exactly, did they want?
Shutting down ICE probably wouldn't solve the problems this country has with militarized law enforcement. But, as MSNBC host Chris Hayes tweeted, "you don't need an agency devoted to unauthorized immigration to apprehend violent criminals." Indeed. Our massively redundant federal law enforcement already includes the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, the DEA, and more. All of them spy on us, and all of them share information with one another. Any of them, along with local law enforcement, can be tasked with tracking down potentially dangerous illegal immigrants.
People often claim the left loves big government. But right now, those lefties are saying the government should be a little bit smaller, and a bit less cruel. We should listen.