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  • Nick Bornstein

A Call to Abolish ICE

A theme of the Trump administration has been the deconstruction and simplification of American government. Agencies and departments have had their responsibilities stripped -- with Cabinet officials and other leaders having smaller roles than their predecessors. Stated more simply, the American bureaucracy has shrunk over the past fourteen months as a result of both the President’s decision to leave positions unfilled and his encouragement of appointees to scale back the responsibilities and employees of their own agencies. Despite the massive cuts made to the State Department, Housing and Urban Development Department, Environmental Protection Agency, and more, one agency in particular has enjoyed the full-throated support of our President. The Commander in Chief has emboldened the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, better known as ICE, in a way that no President before ever has.

President Trump pledged throughout the 2016 election campaign to empower law enforcement officials - specifically those enforcing immigration law- in unforeseen ways. He proposed giving these officials more rights, tools, funding, as well as boosting their employment numbers. In the fourteen months of this presidency, Trump has delivered, unleashing a legion of men and women whose sole responsibility is to round up and deport illegal immigrants- many of them law-abiding. The agency is led by hardliners whose opinions represent the harshest views in American society. Their actions have become more egregious and more scrutinized in the Trump administration, and the idea that this deportation force ought to grow is preposterous. The best path forward for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency is to shut it down- permanently.

ICE’s mission is to enforce immigration law nationwide, and while they are currently operating under the President’s request to “get the bad guys out”, stories continue hitting the news of the best and brightest in American society being deported based on actions made years in the past. In the Boston area alone, deportations conducted by ICE are up 50% since Trump took office. Recently, ICE has begun a crackdown on enemies of the Trump administration -- specifically immigrants’ rights activists. The agency conducted a roundup of sorts in New York just one month ago, targeting members of the New Sanctuary Coalition, an organization that helps immigrants apply for asylum, prepare for meetings with government officials, and find homes and places of worship in the United States. On January 3rd, ICE officials detained one of the Coalition’s office workers, Jean Montrevil, who had immigrated to the United States on a green card in the ‘80s, been convicted of a drug offense before the age of 20, and stayed clean for the 28 years since then. Montrevil was married with four children and a stable job -- a totally different man than the boy who had been imprisoned all those years ago. ICE did not care. Soon after, he was whisked away to a detention center in the Deep South, and his friends learned that Jean was deported to Haiti just one day later.

Jean’s story is one of thousands of examples of ICE attacking integral pieces of communities nationwide. Worst of all is the lack of heart and decency these agents operate with. Who is safe from a surprise visit from ICE? In the last year and a half alone, veterans, hospitalized AIDS patients, doctors, businessmen, pastors, fathers dropping their children off at school and many more have been ambushed and deported- with many mainstream media outlets not so much as covering these atrocities. When rumors of President Trump creating a deportation force began to permeate during the early stretches of his term, Paul Ryan quickly reassured concerned citizens that no such thing would exist so long as he was Speaker of the House. How then, can one explain an agency who defines deporting a paraplegic toddler’s only caregiver as, “carrying out our mission”? ICE would state that Yancarlos Mendez was an immigrant on an expired visa caught driving without a license and was deported for a violation of the Visa Waiver Program. That menial description, however, does nothing to explain the contributions that Yancarlos has made to our country. Mr. Mendez lived in Ohio for four years with Sandra Mendoza, a divorced mother of Ricky, whose father lost custody as a result of abusive behavior towards Ms. Mendoza. In February of last year, Ricky was paralyzed from the waist down in a gruesome car accident. With Sandra working to support the family, Yancarlos was left as the sole caregiver for 6-year old Ricky, making him responsible for doctor’s appointments, prescription pick-ups, and more. An attorney for the family applied for a one year delay of Mendez’s deportation to allow the family to prepare for his absence- but an ICE caseworker in Columbus denied the request, allowing Mendez’s deportation to continue. Since Mendez returned to his home country, Mendoza quit her job and can barely support Ricky.

President Trump and other government leaders argue that reducing crime is the ultimate goal, and that many of these immigrants are criminals just by the nature of their residence in the United States. Is it truly worth creating a façade of safety and security if it comes at the loss of thousands of hard-working men and women who have called America home for decades? ICE is not only cruel, but incompetent, as many agents have coerced false testimony out of detainees or been caught abusing their civil liberties during the detention process. Most recently, the head lawyer in ICE’s Seattle office was caught stealing the identities of immigrants for personal gain. The organization’s useful functions such as removing counterfeit money from circulation can be passed on to one of the many other law enforcement agencies in the United States. To that point, the goal of a law enforcement agency ought to be to target real, serious, dangerous criminals- not fathers, caretakers, and other vulnerable members of society. ICE’s unchecked abuses of power can no longer continue if we seek to maintain the diversity that has kept our nation strong for centuries. For the wellbeing of America and its people, ICE must be abolished.

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