The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been in the spotlight as a result of the widespread coverage of the separation of immigrant families, a policy that is blatantly fascist. More recently, the agency has come under fire after the deportation of migrant parents resulted in some separated children being placed up for adoption. What has emerged as a result of ICE’s moral degradation is a movement to abolish the agency entirely, which has driven a wedge into the Democratic party and its supporters.
According to a Pew Research poll, just over half of Americans do not support the idea, while roughly a quarter do and the remainder are unsure. Nevertheless, ICE is one of the government’s most unfavorably viewed agencies, with the movement to abolish it gaining large amounts of support both from establishment politicians and from the general public. But more than being a logical next step in progressive politics, abolishing ICE is the correct moral decision, because the agency contradicts fundamental values of human decency.
The call to abolish ICE was first articulated by political commentator Sean McElwee earlier this year, though it started as a hashtag in 2017. Since then, ICE and its human rights violations have gained more widespread coverage, which has caused the movement against it to grow. Most notably, democratic socialist congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaigned on the issue of abolishing ICE and was able to defeat long-standing incumbent Democrat Joe Crowley in their primary race. Since then, the idea has gotten more institutional support, with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders all publicly supportive of the idea. When one further examines ICE as an institution, the support for its abolition becomes clear.
Since ICE’s creation after the passage of the Homeland Security Act in 2002, there have been at least 10 deaths annually in detention centers. This number has recently increased. What is also — if not more — alarming is the dramatic increase in deportations. President Barack Obama earned the nickname “Deporter-In-Chief” after his administration was reported to have the largest number of deportations in United States history; nearly 2.4 million immigrants. Furthermore, ICE reportedly had 1,224 sexual assault violations between 2010 and 2017. President Donald Trump has ramped up the efforts of the Obama administration with his establishment of detention centers for migrant children.
ICE is just one factor of how the U.S. violates immigrants’ basic rights. Recently, children as young as three years old have been forced to go to their own deportation hearings alone after being separated from their families. Compounding this problem is the fact that the number of children being separated from their parents is skyrocketing.
The widespread support for abolition of ICE should not be the only impetus for this movement. To preserve some sense of dignity as a nation, the extreme moral violations that have occurred as a result of ICE’s existence must be the call to action.
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A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Oct. 15 print edition.
Email Cole Stallone at [email protected]