Now consider ICE’s recent record—and behold the GOP piling effusive praise on bureaucrats whose ineptitude and misbehavior is flagrant and damaging, even as it agitates to give that bureaucracy more money without anything approaching sufficient effort to reform its abuses.
Among the dysfunctional ICE bureaucracy’s most egregious shortcomings: the wrongful arrest and incarceration of U.S. citizens and legal residents. Davino Watson was wrongfully imprisoned for 1,273 days. Sergey Mayorov was wrongfully imprisoned for 324 days.
Mark Lyttle was wrongfully imprisoned for 53 days, then wrongfully deported and “forced to cross the Mexican border on foot with only $3 in his pocket,” an ACLU summary of his ordeal alleges. “Lyttle endured 125 days wandering through Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala, sleeping in streets and shelters, and even being imprisoned in a Honduran jail, before he was finally referred to a U.S. consular officer in Guatemala who actually listened to his story. The officer obtained confirmation of Lyttle’s U.S. citizenship by calling one of his brothers who serves in the U.S. military. Only through the extensive efforts of Lyttle’s family and a lawyer was he finally able to return.”
One might imagine that plucking Americans out of their lives, strip-searching them, confining them to cages, and rendering them terrified, unable to work, and unable to see their families would be considered as scandalous by the GOP as the wrongful application of extra scrutiny to nonprofit organizations seeking to obtain tax-exempt status.
Yet every House Republican except the unusually principled Representative Justin Amash is now on record extolling the personnel of the agency that subjects hundreds of Americans each year to either wrongful arrest or the wrongful extension of federal or local incarceration.
NPR reported on the phenomenon just before President Donald Trump took office, highlighting the case of an American named Lorenzo Palma. “It’s illegal for U.S. immigration authorities to hold Americans in detention,” the news organization noted. “However, an NPR analysis of data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act Request shows that hundreds of American citizens each year find themselves in a situation similar to Palma’s. Those data show that from 2007 through July of last year, 693 U.S. citizens were held in local jails on federal detainers—in other words, at the request of immigration officials. And 818 more Americans were held in immigration detention centers during that same time frame, according to data obtained through a separate FOIA request by Northwestern University professor Jacqueline Stevens and analyzed by NPR.”
An April 2018 investigation by the Los Angeles Times documented ongoing injustices. “Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents repeatedly target U.S. citizens for deportation by mistake, making wrongful arrests based on incomplete government records, bad data and lax investigations,” the newspaper reported. “Victims include a landscaper snatched in a Home Depot parking lot in Rialto and held for days despite his son’s attempts to show agents the man’s U.S. passport; a New York resident locked up for more than three years fighting deportation efforts after a federal agent mistook his father for someone who wasn’t a U.S. citizen; and a Rhode Island housekeeper mistakenly targeted twice, resulting in her spending a night in prison the second time even though her husband had brought her U.S. passport to a court hearing. They and others described the panic and feeling of powerlessness that set in as agents took them into custody without explanation and ignored their claims of citizenship.”