ICE on the Rocks

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NYC organized by the Democratic Socialists in America to abolish ICE. The protesters also rallied to "abolish profit." (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
NYC demonstration organized by the Democratic Socialists in America to abolish ICE. The protesters also rallied to “abolish profit.” (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Is the growing movement to abolish the immigration enforcement agency, ICE, for real? If not, what does the “Abolish ICE” slogan mean? If it comes to fruition, what would that mean for security concerns in the country?


A Little Relevant History

The job of the Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agency is not border patrol, but rather weeding out illegal immigrants that have managed to get past the border.

The agency didn’t even exist before 9/11. After that massive terror attack that shook up the world order – and awakened America to the threat of immigrants — the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was established, swallowing up the job of the previous agency (Immigration and Naturalization Service, which itself was only established in 1933).

DHS was divided into three agencies: one that deals with processing legal immigration (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services), one that enforces the border (Customs and Border Protection) and ICE.

Although undocumented immigration was always illegal before 9/11, there wasn’t much chance of getting deported unless the illegal immigrant committed a crime.

Once ICE was established, its agents started doing the job they were hired to do: rounding up illegal immigrants, both criminals and non-criminals.

And with every year, the problem of illegal immigrants pouring into the country grew.


Obama versus Trump

During the Obama administration, deportations of illegal immigrants reached an all-time high. In fact, during every year of the Obama presidency, more illegal immigrants were deported than in Trump’s first year.

But no one seemed to be paying attention. The reason? According to Vox, “ICE was being run by a Democrat — one who had promised to legalize unauthorized immigrants. And, more important, the policy was packaged very differently: The administration itself downplayed the aggressiveness of its tactics. It spent most of its time promising that ICE was going after ‘felons, not families.’”

However, as Vox notes, that didn’t really reflect reality. It wasn’t until November 2014, that a DHS memo went out instructing ICE agents to mainly go after felons.

So, even though Trump is not doing anything new in terms of deportation – and, in fact, has deported even fewer illegal immigrants than Obama did – Trump has another agenda: ending illegal immigration.

And it’s that agenda that has set the Left on fire.


#AbolishICE? Really?

The Abolish ICE movement was started by journalist Sean McElwee. Although most Democrats have not embraced the concept in its literal form, at least one, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) is introducing a bill to do just that in the House.

In practice, the movement ranges from promoting the defanging of ICE (by decreasing funding for the agency to the point where only minimal deportations are possible) to the actual abolishment of the agency.

But all agree the movement’s first goal is to push the idea into the political discourse in a way that the concept must be reckoned with.

“It should be a contested question as to whether [deportation] is a legitimate thing that governments should do,” McElwee has said.

McElwee himself would like to see all deportations end – a goal he hopes to accomplish in 30 years. However, his first goal – taking the topic into mainstream politics — has already been accomplished. And it looks like it will be the hottest campaign issue in the midterm elections.

Yet, so far, the discussion about abolishing ICE has centered around the morality of the concept of deportation itself. Surprisingly absent in the conversation is discussion of the real security concerns regarding illegal immigrants who are terrorists (as well as other criminals, save for the Left denigrating Trump’s assertion that deportations are necessary to get rid of MS-13 gang members.)

But security concerns must be addressed. It is a given that those behind the Abolish ICE movement are also against Trump’s travel pause from countries deemed security risks due to their extremist history and current inadequate vetting mechanism for their citizens (“No Border, No Nations, No Deportation” read the signs of protesters at a rally in NYC to abolish ICE).

What’s the connection? While the travel pause addresses legal immigration, abolishing ICE addresses illegal immigration. However, the blithe willingness to dismiss security concerns in both of these areas and put the needs of the immigrants before the safety of American citizens is astonishing.

Before the Left jumps on this latest anti-Trump bandwagon, it should take a realistic look at the long-term implications of this latest “progressive” idea.



5 Reasons Supreme Court Upheld Trump’s Immigration Pause

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Recipe for Disaster: Immigration Without Assimilation


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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org