He now awaits trial after being caught.
Yes, that ICE. The same U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency helping to carry out President Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy, which has made it the target of an outraged #AbolishICE campaign.
The Abolish ICE movement feels right. Because so much of what has been happening in America — families being separated at the border, refugees being refused entry, Muslims being banned from traveling here — is wrong.
But here’s the problem with something like #AbolishICE — it’s a slogan, not a solution.
ICE wasn’t the agency separating children from their parents at the border until judges put a stop to it. That was U.S. Border Patrol officers.
Yes, ICE conducts workplace raids and deports undocumented immigrants. But it has always done that. Under President Barack Obama, ICE agents primarily targeted undocumented immigrants who committed crimes, not ordinary people who came here seeking a better life.
And you might be surprised to learn that ICE doesn’t just go after undocumented immigrants. It also busts human traffickers, child pornographers and violent gang members. Just a quick look at the caseload on their website will show scores of child-porn cases — American-born men abusing children and trading their porn across U.S. borders.
This is ICE, too.
For years, the relationship between ICE and undocumented immigrants who were otherwise law-abiding, taxpaying folks looked much like Marta Rodriguez’s life.
The mother of six came from Honduras to escape a violent relationship. She requested political asylum and settled in New Carrollton, Md., where she had a home, steady employment as a housekeeper and a legal work life since 2009. For nearly a decade, she checked in at her local ICE office as they asked, no problems.
Until last week, when she was arrested during her check-in and detained until she is deported. This is happening again and again.
Why? The mission changed.
Since Trump became president, ICE has stepped up raids at churches, convenience stores, garden centers, meatpacking plants and housing complexes.
Over the weekend, nine immigrants were reportedly taken from an apartment building in a Northwest Washington neighborhood known for its diversity. Protesters gathered in Columbia Heights on Monday evening to sound the #AbolishICE call.
One of the movement’s leaders is 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who rode the outcry to victory in the Democratic primary in New York last month.
“It’s time to abolish ICE, clear the path to citizenship, and protect the rights of families to remain together,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote on her campaign website.
Other Democrats have embraced the idea. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts both say that the entire system has to be overhauled to get rid of ICE.
It’s a radical stance.
But let’s get real. Isn’t it a little whiplash-y in the way it funhouse-mirrors so many conservatives’ long-standing calls to abolish federal agencies?
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) keeps promising to abolish the IRS. Then there’s Rick Perry, circa 2011.
Remember, Perry famously said he’d abolish three agencies when he was running for the White House — #AbolishCommerce, #AbolishEnergy and #AbolishEducation. Actually, he was more famous for being unable to remember one of the agencies — Energy — when he was on stage in a debate.
Now he’s the secretary of energy. How incredible is that?
Turns out, he didn’t really understand what the Energy Department does when he proposed abolishing it.
Just a reminder — complexity, nuance and truth aren’t easy talking points in Washington these days.
Or as Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) put it: “You abolish ICE now, you still have the same president with the same failed policies,” she said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Whatever you replace it with is just going to still reflect what this president wants to do.”
ICE agents have been ordered to enact a policy of xenophobia that has been unprecedented in contemporary America.
The solution isn’t to abolish the agency, but to abolish the policies fueling the hatred. There’s only one way to fix our heartless immigration system: Get rid of the president who believes in zero tolerance and the lawmakers who support him.
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