Ice agents are out of control. And they are only getting worse | Trevor Timm
The agency is so harmful to civil rights, theres a good argument it should be disbanded altogether. Unfortunately they are only becoming more emboldened
With arrests of non-violent undocumented immigrants exploding across the country, its almost as if Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) agents are having an internal contest to see who can participate in the most cruel and inhumane arrest possible. The agency, emboldened by Trumps xenophobic rhetoric, is out of control and Congress is doing little to stop them.
Last week, Ice agents ate breakfast at a Michigan restaurant, complimented the chef on their meal and then proceeded to arrest three members of the restaurants kitchen staff, according to the owner.
Depraved stories like this are now almost too prevalent to comprehensively count: Ice has arrested undocumented immigrants showing up for scheduled green card appointments at a US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office. Theyve arrested a father after dropping his daughter off at school. An Ice detainee was even removed forcefully against her will from a hospital where she was receiving treatment for a brain tumor.
In a particularly dangerous policy, Ice been arresting people inside US courthouses around the country. Attorneys and prosecutors in California, Arizona, Texas and Colorado have all reported teams of Ice agents some in uniform, some not sweeping into courtrooms or lurking outside court complexes, waiting to arrest immigrants who are in the country illegally, reported the LA Times in March.
It apparently doesnt matter that the agency has faced stiff resistance from judges and prosecutors over this policy, who have both claimed that it will mean people wont show up to court. And fears are not just conjecture: a Denver city attorney was recently forced to drop four domestic violence cases because the witnesses were too afraid to come into court for fear of being deported.
Many groups, including the ACLU, have also accused Ice of targeting non-violent activists who protest the Trump administrations increasingly draconian immigration policy with arrest.
While the anecdotes are horrifying, the numbers tell a similar story. Arrests of undocumented immigrants have increased substantially over Trumps first few months in office. According to numbers released by the government, over Trumps first 100 days, Ice arrested over 41,000 individuals a 37.6% increase over a year earlier, which they openly bragged about on the Ice website.
Worse, the arrests of non-violent immigrants with no criminal record whatsoever has exploded, more than doubling from 4,242 people to 10,845 over the same period from 2016 to 2017. And as the Daily Beast reported on Tuesday: Men and women held by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement are on pace to die at double the rate of those who died in Ice custody last year.
Its not just the fear of arrest that is gripping immigrant communities. In addition to the Trump administration stripping away due process protections for arrested immigrants via executive order, the US justice department has even attempted to cut off legal representation for some immigrants a horrific move by anyones standards.
Last month, the justice department tried to prevent an immigrant not-for-profit group in Seattle from giving immigrants legal assistance like filling out paperwork, unless they offer them full representation in court. Thankfully, a judge temporarily blocked the move, but its just one more example of the Trump administration almost unbelievably cruel policy towards the nations 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Early in his presidency, Trumps press secretary, Sean Spicer, said the president wanted to take the shackles off Ice agents so they could conduct more arrests, eerily echoing the CIAs comments post-9/11 that they would take the gloves off in response to the terrorist attack.
The CIA followed that statement with a years-long, worldwide torture program that violated domestic and international law for which they still have not been held accountable, and its increasingly clear Ice is following a similar path.
While some Democrats have introduced bills to curtail some of Ices most egregious transgressions, Republicans, who control both houses of Congress, have shown little if any interest in reining in Ice. The agency is so harmful to civil rights, theres a good argument it should be disbanded altogether, but unfortunately it seems they are only becoming more emboldened with each passing week.