As horror stories from America’s southern border continue to proliferate (an example: some young children who have been reunited with their mothers no longer recognize them) calls to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) have gotten louder.
Libertarian Lucy Steigerwald, in The Week, makes the strongest #AbolishICE case I’ve read:
…It is an expensive, abusive, and unnecessary agency. We should get rid of it.
ICE has only existed for 15 years, during which time America’s spending on immigration enforcement, tracking, and surveillance has swelled like a tumor. The U.S. spent $187 billion on immigration enforcement between 1990 and 2013, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Deportations increased more than tenfold between 1990 and 2011. And ICE spends $2 billion every year to hold immigrants in private detention centers known for human rights abuses. One report found that, over seven years, ICE workers were accused of roughly 600 instances of sexual and physical abuse in detention centers. This is made worse when you realize that private contractors have been benefiting from the detention centers.
We now have a tangled monster of a system that incentivizes indefinitely holding people who have committed a civil infraction by crossing the border. We are spending a lot of money to punish families for nonviolent offenses — for doing a perfectly rational thing like trying to find more work, or trying to get their children out of violent, cartel, civil war-ridden countries.
Why do we even need ICE? The agency’s main job is to find and apprehend illegal immigrants who are already in the country. In theory, this is different from Border Patrol, which is meant to patrol, well, the border, but technically can operate anywhere within 100 miles of the border. As the American Civil Liberties Union has frequently pointed out, two-thirds of Americans live within 100 miles of the border, which means two-thirds of Americans are already under the jurisdiction of both ICE andBorder Patrol. This essentially makes ICE, and its $3.8 billion annual budget, redundant. I can’t think of anything ICE does that brings added value to the country, but I can point to numerous instances of the agency unnecessarily harassing Americans.
People often claim the left loves big government. But right now, those lefties are saying the government should be a little bit smaller, and a bit less cruel. We should listen.
The problem is, many Americans read “Abolish ICE” and see “abolish borders.” That’s the argument pushed by immigration restrictionist Mark Kirkorian and echoed by many Republicans, who are already trying to capitalize on it for the November midterm elections.
The point of abolishing ICE is to end all non-criminal deportations of illegal aliens. That would mean that every foreigner who manages to slip past the Border Patrol or who overstays a visa would be permitted to stay forever, so long as he isn’t convicted of an especially heinous crime.
That would render our entire body of immigration law meaningless. The numerical caps on various categories and the requirements to qualify would be irrelevant because there would be no agency to enforce them. #AbolishICE means nothing if not unlimited immigration and open borders.
Unlimited immigration is a defensible, if misguided, goal. But its proponents are not arguing for it honestly, explaining to voters why they should open America’s borders to the world’s poor. Instead, they’re trying to fool voters by hiding behind a hashtag.
ICE, like all tools now being wielded by this venal and incompetent administration, is doing tremendous damage, and if the midterm elections are a referendum on Trump, Democrats will win big. But if the midterms are a referendum on whether the border should be enforced at all, they will lose.