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Shot: Conservative Columnist Michael Gerson: “ICE Has Become Trump’s Personal Bullying Squad”

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Chaser: Esquire’s Charles Pierce: “There is a fully deputized, well-armed national police force operating in this country like we’ve never seen operate before”

Michael Gerson, a syndicated Washington Post columnist who worked for George W. Bush as a speechwriter, pens a must-read column entitled, “ICE Has Become Trump’s Personal Bullying Squad.

The piece is an essential contribution to the growing chorus of observers disturbed by the actions of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under Trump. From separating parents from children and proudly sowing fear among long-term immigrant residents, to rogue tactics and warrantless raids, ICE is a powerful and unaccountable law enforcement agency that is relentlessly advancing Trump’s dark immigration strategy. Excerpts below:

…Immigration and Customs Enforcement has passed the loyalty test. ICE’s enforcement surge “is merely the keeping of my campaign promise,” the president tweeted. Referring to ICE acting director Thomas Homan, Trump said, “Somebody said the other day, they saw him on television. . . . ‘He looks very nasty, he looks very mean.’ I said, ‘That’s what I’m looking for!’ ”

This is territory more familiar in political systems of personal rule. The agency [FBI] that defies the ruler must be discredited. The agency that does his bidding is viewed as a kind of Praetorian Guard.

ICE’s 40 percent increase in arrests within the United States after Trump took office is now closely associated with the president’s political priorities. His sweeping executive orders on immigration broadened the focus of enforcement beyond serious threats to public order. Arrests of immigrants without criminal convictions have spiked. Routine “check-ins” with ICE officials can end with handcuffs and deportation. “Sanctuary cities” — a recurring presidential political obsession — are being targeted with additional personnel. Hundreds of children have been removed from parents seeking asylum and detained separately — compounding their terrible ordeal of persecution and flight. ICE recently announced a new policy that makes it easier to detain pregnant women. Asylum seekers have often been denied “humanitarian parole” while their cases are decided, effectively jailing them without due process.

This is an issue ripe for more rigorous congressional oversight — even an independent commission to investigate charges of physical and sexual abuse in the ICE system. But this would require a critical mass of elected Republicans to give a damn about the rights and dignity of migrants. It is a distant dream.

In a recent Esquire column, “ICE Is a Renegade National Police Force Operating Beyond the Law,” Charles P. Pierce raises similar points:

There is a fully deputized, well-armed national police force operating in this country like we’ve never seen operate before. It cannot truly be called lawless because it is operating under the laws as executed by the national Executive, consented to by the national Legislature, and approved of, tacitly, by the people who elected the members of the former two branches. In another sense, however, in its contempt for the rights of citizens guaranteed by the Constitution, it is acting not against the law, but in a dark space beyond it, where the law is as weak and irrelevant as gravity is in outer space.

Read Michael Gerson’s full piece here, and Charles P. Pierce’s here.