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The Many, Many Reasons Why ICE is a Rogue Agency

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ICE is a relatively new government agency and has only been operating since 2003. In its less than two decades of existence, ICE has developed a long record of abuses — yet the Trump Administration has encouraged, facilitated, and “unshackled” the agency. Under his presidency, ICE has increasingly known no bounds, which is why we now consider it a rogue agency.  

Separation of children and families

So far during the Trump Administration, ICE has:

  • Helped to separate more than 2,700 child asylum seekers from their parents, detaining them in separate detention centers as a deterrent for other migrants. Thomas Homan, then acting director of ICE, defended the family separation policy at an event hosted by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a noted hate groupIn one case, a 7-year-old girl was separated from her mother, who was placed in an ICE detention center, while the girl was taken 2,000 miles away because officials said their maternal relationship was in doubt. Yet the DNA test wasn’t conducted until four months later, after the ACLU interceded. The American Medical Association has denounced family separation as causing “unnecessary distress, depression and anxiety,” and the American Academy of Pediatrics called it “harsh and counterproductive.”
  • Caused an ICE lawyer to quit; “I used to be an ICE lawyer but now I’m going to defend immigrant parents and children. I didn’t become an attorney to prosecute and deport babies,” wrote Laura Peña, a former assistant chief counsel at ICE.
  • Caused at least 19 ICE investigators to call to be separated from the organization as the priorities under the Trump Administration have limited their ability to pursue national security threats, child pornography, and transnational crime. Another ICE agent told the Los Angeles Times, “Even the cops don’t like us anymore.”
  • Denied parole for asylum seekers and needlessly held them in detention, even when they met release criteria.
  • Allegedly assaulted and shoved to the sidewalk an immigration attorney in Kansas City who was accompanying a three-year-old who was to be deported with his pregnant mother back to Guatemala.


  • Increased immigration arrests nearly 40 percent in 2017 over the same time period from 2016.
  • Increased non-criminal immigration arrests 171 percent in 2017, compared to 2016, reflecting a shift away from prioritizing immigrants who had committed major crimes.
  • Targeted immigration activists and political opponents for detention and deportation. A pending lawsuit claims ICE targeted outspoken immigration activists “in order to silence them.”
  • Confirmed that immigrants do not need to have committed a crime to be held and arrested on an ICE detainer.
  • Conducted “silent raids” across America, turning routine immigration check-ins into deportation arrests. Critics charge ICE is targeting “low-hanging fruit” to “rack up numbers.”
  • Targeted veterans, military spouses, and families for deportation. Even the wife of a 7th Special Forces Group vet and a Military Times’ Sailor of the Year’s wife have not been spared from deportation.
  • Targeted Dreamers for detention and possible deportation. Last year, ICE issued a series of tweets saying that DACA does not prevent a deportation order.
  • Refused to deport a confessed Nazi war criminal who served as a concentration-camp guard and was stripped of his citizenship. Yet ICE deported Yancarlos Mendez, the stepfather and sole financial provider of a 6-year old paraplegic boy.
  • Informally expanded their definition of “criminal alien” to include immigrants who received traffic tickets or committed minor infractions like loitering, according to a report by ProPublica. Their report, which looked at ICE in Pennsylvania, also found  that ICE trespassed, conducted warrantless searches, engaged in racial profiling, fabricated evidence, and even solicited a bribe according to interviews, sworn affidavits, and court filings. Any racial profiling engaged by ICE agents lacks public accountability as they have refused to release numbers on how many officers have been disciplined for such activity in  recent years.
  • Illegally detained nearly 1,500 American citizens since 2012. ICE illegally detained one man for 1,273 days.
  • Illegally detained lawful permanent residents; 15 were detained during an ICE raid in June 2018 where ICE arrested 162 total immigrants.
  • Detained a journalist, Memphis-based Manuel Duran, outside of the courthouse after Duran was released by police following his arrest at a Memphis protest. Duran claims he has been targeted for his reporting on police misconduct.
  • Shackled 92 Somalis with chains on their wrists, waists, and legs for 40 hours on a plane during a failed deportation flight. The Intercept reported that the immigrants were forced to urinate in bottles or on themselves and that ICE officers beat and threatened some passengers.


  • Changed its policy to no longer automatically release pregnant women in immigration detention custody, despite a record of denying medical care and losing pregnancies. The move follows government efforts to keep unaccompanied minor immigrants in detention rather than releasing them to obtain abortions.
  • Saw the death of 12 immigrants in detention in 2017, the highest total since 2009.
  • Increased solitary confinement in ICE immigration detention facilities for detainees who refuse voluntary labor.
  • Coerced immigrants at detention centers into working for rates as low as $1 or $1.50 a day.
  • Cut corners in providing health care and mental health care to detainees, skirting federal detention rules.
  • Doubled profits for private prisons acting as ICE immigration detention centers. ICE spends more than $2 billion a year on private prison detention centers run by GEO Group and Core Civic, which made large contributions to Trump’s super PAC and Inaugural Committee.
  • Allowed inhumane human rights violations at ICE detention centers, with reports of physical beatings, pepper spray, racial slurs, “harsh and inhumane” denial of medical care, and sexual assault. In Texas, a female guard allegedly sexually assaulted a Central American asylum seeker for four months. A damning report by the Office of the Inspector General concluded the serious problems it found “undermine the protection of detainees’ rights, their humane treatment, and the provision of a safe and healthy environment.”
  • Detained 65 percent more immigrants in FY 2018 than the previous year, making the Enforcement and Removal Operations division of ICE roughly the 7th largest prison system in the country.


  • Dramatically increased the targeting of businesses through military-style immigration workplace raids. A raid in Ohio featured helicopters, assault rifles, and agents pointing guns at immigrants even though there were children present; keep in mind they were there to arrest garden workers. See more about raids during the Trump Administration here.
  • Portrayed immigrants as criminals in an attempt to justify immigration raids. John Kelly, while head of DHS, ordered ICE officials to highlight  “egregious cases” for the media for each raid; the push ended up being unsuccessful in finding cases that could be “sold” to the public.

Safe cities

Sensitive locations


  • Moved away from national security priorities like investigating gangs, drugs, and money laundering.
  • Last month, a former ICE Chief Counsel was sentenced to four years in prison as part of a plea agreement with the U.S. Justice Department.  Raphael A. Sanchez used his access to private information to steal immigrants’ identities, opening up credit cards and taking out loans in their names.  Sanchez was, unfortunately, not alone. According to The New York Times:
    “Over the past decade, dozens of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and contract guards responsible for the detention and removal of undocumented immigrants have been arrested and charged with beating people, smuggling drugs into detention centers, having sex with detainees and accepting bribes to delay or stop deportations, agency documents and court records show.”
  • Used an invasive surveillance tool called “Stingray”, which tricks cell phones into revealing their location, allowing ICE to find and track down immigrants. Some cell site simulators allow police to eavesdrop on conversations and record them, with data being shared regardless if the phone is in use or not.
  • Hired Jon Feere, an anti-immigrant extremist and former legal policy analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a noted hate group, as a senior adviser at ICE.
  • Apparently seeing a reflection of ICE’s actions in Trump, the union that represents ICE agents endorsed him in 2016, the first time ever they endorsed a presidential candidate.

Also read

Why Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is One of America’s “Most Out-of-Control Enforcement” Agencies