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ICE is Becoming the Political Enforcer of Trumpism, Rather than Even-handed Defenders of Law and Order

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ICE, the Trump Administration’s interior immigration enforcement agency, is out of control. “Unshackled” by the President and his enablers, ICE has become an unaccountable, political police force loyal to Donald Trump and his nativist vision rather than an agency that works for the American people and local governments to advance sound policies and public safety. In fact, these days ICE routinely engages in political retaliation and indiscriminate arrests that are trampling on American values and separating American families.

Here are some reminders of ICE in the Trump era:

ICE arrests of non-criminals surge, separating families and sowing fear

New ICE enforcement statistics from 2017 confirm that the Trump Administration has eliminated common sense immigration enforcement priorities and is targeting whomever they encounter, resulting in indiscriminate deportations and a spike in arrests of immigrants without any criminal records. Many of the heartbreaking examples of families being separated are a direct result of this policy choice and are the human stories and toll behind the statistics.

As CNN’s Tal Kopan noted this past weekend:

According to new data from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, there was a 41% increase in the number of undocumented immigrants who were arrested by the agency in 2017 compared to 2016. But the increase was driven by the agency arresting a significantly higher rate of immigrants without a criminal background. While the share of criminals arrested was up 17%, there was an increase 10 times that — of 171% — in the share of non-criminals arrested.

ICE engaging in political retaliation and scapegoating against elected officials

ICE and its Acting Director Thomas Homan are publicly scapegoating state and local elected officials – including calling Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf “a “gang lookout” for trying to protect immigrant families in her city from ICE’s dragnet. Meanwhile, as high-profile examples in New York City, Colorado, Austin, TX, and Seattle demonstrate, ICE is engaging in disturbing acts of political retaliation against activists (see this recent Gabe Ortiz piecefrom DailyKos for a summary). 

The costs of Trump Administration and GOP allies scapegoating against MS-13 and immigrants

Trump’s radicalism is being aided and abetted by his enablers in Congress. A recent Capitol Hill hearing attempted to pin the blame of the opioid crisis on immigrants, and it was sharply criticized by actual law enforcement experts who called the hearing, “insane,” “ridiculous,” and “outrageously stupid.” Infamous anti-immigrant mouthpiece Rep. Steve King summed up the crazy when he said, “It would seem to me that if tomorrow morning everyone magically woke up in their home country where they could legally reside, it would immediately stop all the illegal drug distribution in America.”

Similarly, a New York Times piece, “Trump Targets MS-13, a Violent Menace, if Not the One He Portrays,” highlights how the Trump Administration is justifying a sweeping crackdown on immigrants and asylum seekers by hyping and overstating the threat of MS-13. The piece also highlights law enforcement experts who note that this outsized focus on MS-13 comes at a direct cost of combating the opioid epidemic and human trafficking:

Police and prosecutors in areas where MS-13 is most active said the heightened focus on the gang has come at the expense of fighting more widespread threats to the United States, particularly opioids and human trafficking. At a meeting with Mr. Sessions last March, Chuck Rosenberg, then the acting head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said it made little sense to focus on MS-13 over more dangerous organizations. He refused to commit more resources to combating the gang, according to two people familiar with the private meeting. Mr. Rosenberg has since left the Trump administration.

MS-13 is certainly a threat, just not the one the president is making it out to be,” said Tom Manger, the police chief in Montgomery County, Md., a Washington suburb where the gang has one of its largest concentrations … “They are a local public safety threat, but they are not a national security threat,” Chief Manger said.

The heartbreaking stories and toll of Trump Administration’s immigration extremism continue to pile up

The sheer volume of the heartbreaking stories of those targeted by Trump deportation forces are hard to keep track of. Here are two new ones to add to the mix – the Military Timesreports this week that “Wife of 7th Special Forces Group vet faces deportation under tighter immigration rules.” And Newsweek’s headline “ICE to deport cancer-surviving mother of three amid California crackdown” captures one family’s devastation. As Dan Savage wrote in a must-read anti-ICE screed for The Stranger this week:

we learn that ICE just arrested a 55-year-old chemistry professor in Lawrence, Kansas, who’s lived in this country for 31 years and has three children, all of whom are American citizens; according to the Washington Post, he was arrested on his front lawn in front of his children, and his wife was threatened with arrest if she tried to hug her husband goodbye. We learn that after ICE moved to deport a married man in Arizona who now has five children, one of whom has leukemia, the father was forced to take refuge in a church with his ailing son. We learn that ICE denied an appeal from an Ohio man who is a specially trained caregiver for a 6-year-old paraplegic boy who depends on his care. We learn that ICE ordered an HIV-positive gay man in Miami deported to Venezuela, a country in a state of economic collapse; since the man won’t be able to get the medications he needs to keep him alive, his deportation amounts to a death sentence.

…We write and we talk about ICE like it’s a natural disaster—like it’s a hurricane or an earthquake or a wildfire. This terrible thing happened because of ICE, that terrible thing happened because of ICE. But ICE isn’t an impersonal, uncontrollable, unaccountable force of nature. ICE, like corporations or Soylent Green, is people. ICE is people who are being paid to do unbelievably cruel things to other people. And if you’re a US taxpayer, these unbelievably cruel things are being done in your name and on your dime. The ICE agents who threatened to arrest that chemistry professor’s wife if she tried to hug him goodbye? Those people work for you.

Also read Jamelle Bouie in Slate: “ICE Unbound, and Jonathan Blitzer in The New Yorker:Donald Trump’s ICE Is Tearing Families Apart” for two other powerful indictments of what is being done by ICE with American taxpayer money and in our name in our communities across the country.  

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

Trump’s deportation force agents increasingly operate as politicized enforcers of Trumpism, rather than even-handed defenders of law and order. They pick geographic targets for raids in order to punish opponents of the regime. They run roughshod over rights and families in order to spread fear. They defy law enforcement norms and practices and act with impunity. Their PR strategy is to talk about ‘bad hombres,’ but their practice is to go after ordinary immigrants who work hard in order to provide for their families. In a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws, these Trumped-up agents undermine both. The day will come when these excesses and those who are responsible for carrying them out are held to account.