Is ICE too Icy?
By: Alena Khan/Arab America Contributing Writer
Immigrants have been fighting against the expansion of immigration enforcement for years. Before Trump became President, it was mainly immigrants who knew of ICE, the US Immigration, and Customs Enforcement. However, under Trump’s presidency, it’s become more of a “household name—even in the households that don’t have to worry about its agents knocking on their doors.”
ICE is known to acknowledge the administration they are working under, to take on its missions through the framework established by each respective administration. And as Trump has referred to ICE as the “only thing keeping the country from exploding into rampant uncontrollable crime,” ICE has become a little too icy.
Despite whatever side of the ongoing US immigration debate you are on, all sides can agree on the fact that the current system is a complete disaster.
ICE’s primary mission is to “prevent acts of terrorism by targeting the people, money, and materials that support terrorist and criminal activities.” But somewhere along the way, suddenly, unlawful arrests and the separation of families seem to be just measured.
Under former president Barack Obama, ICE’s primary functions were still deportation and detention, but the interior functions were redirected. John Morton, former director of ICE had “ordered agents to exercise prosecutorial discretion,” meaning that agents would aim their focus on those who violate US immigration laws but posed the greater threats to national security. In addition to the redirection of ICE’s processes, the Obama administration had started the DACA program, allowing young adults in the US, illegally, to find a path to citizenship.
When Trump issued an executive order on “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” ICE had turned into a “deportation machine.” This resulted in Trump’s personal nationwide manhunt which has ruined the peaceful lives of those who have lived in the country for decades—those with children who are US citizens, those who pay taxes and contribute to our country.
Suddenly, everyone has become a target for immediate deportation and ICE has stopped using their resources on what they’re actually meant to be doing. “The stripping of discretion from ICE officers has been one of the most damaging policies that we’ve seen under this administration.”
ICE’s commitment to respect has been long gone, “they have the discretion to implement the laws in a humanitarian way, and they’re just acting like robots,” critics say. Along with immigration lawyers, local government agencies have voiced their concerns as well. Many Homeland Security agents, who deal with ICE’s original mission of terrorism, weapons, and crime, complain that “the agency’s high-profile anti-immigration work has made their jobs impossible.” In Texas, local government agents say that ICE’s reputation has become “so toxic that local law enforcement won’t cooperate with them.”
Since Trump has been president, studies show that the overall number of people trying to cross the border has decreased, yet the agency is arresting and deporting more people than ever. According to Vox, “Deportation isn’t new. But ICE has made it a serious threat.” Now that the federal government has created policies involving the separation of immigrant children from their parents, it’s dramatically increased the number of minors who have encountered officials by themselves having to deal with expanded abuses.
Also under the Trump era, a request from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) had revealed that ICE has been learning their techniques and tools from a rather questionable source— the Israeli military.
This dangerous collaboration started about three years ago when a former ICE deputy, Peter Edge, involved himself in a delegation to Israel where according to the Jewish Voice for Peace, “US and Israeli officials swapped notes on their shared and devastating goals.” The group behind this arrangement known as the Anti-Defamation League has been speaking out against Trump’s policies involving separating families, but on the other hand, they’ve also been helping ICE and Israeli officials collaborate.
What seems to not make sense here is why the Anti-Defamation League would go against their own goals and create new connections between ICE and Israel?
Immigration lawyer, Altin Nanaj, has been representing victims of the inhumane policies ICE works under saying that “ICE agents may say they’re just doing their job, but so did the Nazis and they were held accountable.” Ironically, President Trump was endorsed by the Border Patrol and ICE Union ahead of the 2016 election, which had never previously endorsed a presidential candidate. ACLU writer and border litigation attorney Mitra Ebadolahi, says, “If the abuses were this bad under Obama when the Border Patrol described itself as constrained, imagine how it must be now under Trump, who vowed to unleash the agents to do their jobs.”
There is a public outrage over the Trump administration and their “zero tolerance” policy over border control, separating thousands of families, harshly arresting and interrogating immigrants. ICE has taken the progress it’s made throughout the years under previous presidencies and thrown it out the window now, becoming one of the several fear tactics the Trump administration uses to “get things done.”