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On Thin ICE

Any organization will have a certain level of corruption or power abuse. This is a sad fact of life. Still, there is a point where the abuses of a group become intolerable; there is a point where its usefulness is completely overshadowed by its harm. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency has reached this point. Full of hate, cruelty, and violent misuse of power, it is time that ICE be abolished, and its resources used more effectively and humanely.

ICE has 20,000 employees and a budget of around 6.9 billion dollars. It uses this massive power in the fulfillment of three official roles. The first, and most obvious, is immigration enforcement. The second is “Preventing Terrorism”, and the third is “Investigating Illegal Movement of People and Goods”.

These mandates make ICE seem like a diverse and necessary agency. However, a closer examination reveals that everything non-immigration related is redundant and superficial. Claiming that ICE does anything but arrest illegal immigrants may be true on paper, but completely false in reality. A quick look at the budget of the agency reveals that.

For projects not related to immigration enforcement, like terrorism prevention, ICE cannot even gauge their own performance, and devotes a minimum amount of their budget. For each non-immigration mission, the report states: “ICE contributes to this mission, but does not have performance measures in this area.” Clearly, non-immigration concerns do not receive serious attention by ICE. And honestly, why should they? When it comes down to it, other agencies do these jobs better. The FBI, CIA, Border Patrol, and TSA all have a greater and more effective hand in preventing terrorism.

In terms of their third role, any claims by ICE that they investigate illegal goods and human trafficking again shows a redundancy in their usefulness. The Drug Enforcement Agency, along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives are both organizations that exist specifically to track and stop illegal movements of goods. The FBI has task forces specific to human trafficking. For just one reference point, ICE brags that it arrested 11,846 people for drug arrests in 2016. The DEA arrested 28,881; they did that with a budget less than half that of ICE.

So, the only place where ICE serves a unique purpose, and “excels,” is in immigration enforcement. And in this area, their actions can be considered nothing less than cruel. For one, ICE does not simply arrest illegal immigrants committing crimes (something that local law enforcement could probably handle). No, ICE also arrests peaceful illegal immigrants who have been here for years.

In the first 14 months of Trump’s presidency, 31% of people arrested by ICE did not have criminal records. This means their lives were uprooted, and their families torn apart, for a misdemeanor that could be years old. In fact, in June 2017 the then Acting Director of ICE Thomas Homan testified in front of Congress that illegal immigrants “should look over your shoulder and you need to be worried”. This line would be better suited in a George Orwell book than the warning of a U.S. agency.

Even if you are completely in agreement with ICE arresting peaceful illegal immigrants, the power abuses within the agency are undeniably disgusting. Between 2014 and 2017, ICE has reported 1,310 allegations of sexual abuse. Assuming that these numbers aren’t underreported, which some watchdog organizations believe they are, this is still a staggering amount of abuse coming from an agency that claims to enforce the law and protect the common good.

If this wasn’t bad enough, there are also widespread claims that ICE physically abuses juvenile detainees. In one case, multiple teens in a Virginia detention center reported that “they were beaten while handcuffed and locked up for long periods in solitary confinement, left nude and shivering in concrete cells.” One of these teens was as young as 14. Admittedly, it is not surprising that an organization that has been built on rooting out vulnerable populations has abused its power. Yet still, the sheer cruelty and violence of these abuses would be shocking coming from a sociopath, let alone a government agency.

I understand that the abolishment of ICE would mean a lot of confusion, and possible heartache for its employees. But the organization as a whole has become a breeding ground for neglect, mistreatment, and cruelty. Ideally, there would be a plan to direct these employees, and other resources, to better and more humane U.S. agencies. In this way, the country can be just as safe—arguably safer—without the injustices and cruelty that stem from such a toxic agency. There is no denying that the existence of ICE is a stain on our country, one that we should all be ashamed of. Regardless of the costs, it must go.

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