Would abolishing ICE and dispersing its responsibilities elsewhere in the Homeland Security bureaucracy serve the vulnerable any better than reforming ICE? The answer is perhaps unknowable. But there’s an approach to reforming it that strikes me as substantively sound, as likely to help people, and more politically realistic in 2018, when most, including many of those crying for ICE to be abolished or opposing that step, won’t yet grasp what “Abolish ICE” means.
Imagine a candidate telling voters:
Trump postures as if his immigration policy is focused on stopping dangerous criminals like MS-13 members, but the truth is that under his watch ICE spends much of its scarce time and resources going after people who pose no danger. You’ve probably seen photos of elderly people, women, and young children being hauled away. Couldn’t you find better uses for the time of those ICE agents?
Trump himself avows that MS-13 is menacing American communities, and yet he persists in sending ICE after farm hands, restaurant workers, and stay-at-home moms. Does that sound like a man who is strong or whose priorities are in order?
Trump’s poseur, reality-TV approach squanders limited, expensive federal resources. Let’s reform ICE so that it better protects ordered liberty. That’s the right priority—not “looking tough” like Trump or making America white again like Stephen Miller, both of whom could be keeping American families safer but for their decision to chase those other goals. They’re spending a good bit of your tax dollars in order to chase them.
Couldn’t you think of 50 better ways to spend that money?
ICE is not presently responsible for protecting the border against criminals, terrorists, or nukes. Some of its resources might be better assigned to the people who are.
ICE or something like it should be funded enough to find and deport undocumented immigrants with outstanding arrest warrants. And it should look among prison inmates for folks who ought to be deported rather than released, work that avoids the problem of making whole enclaves of people less likely to cooperate with local police. But it is ill-suited to stopping MS-13 and gangs like it.
Thus I’d redirect perhaps a third of ICE funding to entities like the FBI’s task force on reducing the threat from transnational gangs, which should be a much bigger federal priority than stoking fear in otherwise law-abiding people, including veterans.
Yes, ICE has even gone after men who volunteered to fight wars for America.
Internal immigration enforcement is a fraught thing in a free country that values small government and hedges against tyranny. It makes the U.S. more like a police state, with armed federal agents traveling the countryside and busting into private businesses and homes. Sometimes citizens are met with demands to show their papers, a spectacle more befitting East Germany than a free people. Reducing the size of ICE and more fully circumscribing its activities would reduce those violent, statist intrusions into daily life.