The Drive To Abolish ICE: Contempt For Law Masquerading As Social Justice

ICE immigration Getty Images/John Moore

Carl Horowitz Senior Fellow, National Legal & Policy Center
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Few things are more dangerous than a bad idea on a roll. And there is no better current example than the bandwagon of public opinion demanding that Congress abolish U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This view, until recently limited to the radical fringes, suddenly has gone mainstream. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and other lawmakers have announced their desire to open our borders and block deportations. Two House members are preparing a bill to abolish ICE. Like the street activists pressuring them, these people believe that controlling immigration is wrong. America, they insist, is a global sanctuary, not a sovereign nation. That’s why they see President Trump, who governs as if America were a nation, as embodying evil.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is the agency guarding our borders and removing people who lack authorization to be here. Established under the reorganized former Immigration and Naturalization Service following the September 11, 2001 Islamic terrorist attacks, this agency is our primary line of defense against people from abroad who threaten our physical and economic security. Like any government agency, it sometimes falls short of its mission. But the campaign to repeal ICE is not about promoting efficiency or integrity. It is about achieving a sentimentalized ideal of human rights devoid of any understanding of the logic of nationhood.

This campaign has hit the streets with a vengeance. Last week, protestors in Portland, Oregon encamped outside an ICE field office until they were removed by federal SWAT officers in the wee hours of Thursday, June 28. The organizing group, Occupy ICE PDX, tweeted, “Arrest us today, we’ll grow stronger tomorrow!” In Washington, D.C. later that day, police arrested 575 persons for blocking access to the Hart Senate Office Building. And in Atlanta on the night of July 4, a mob of roughly 30 to 50 radical protestors, some wearing masks, clashed with police during an anti-ICE march from Woodruff Park to Centennial Olympic Park.

This contempt for ICE is being felt in Congress. “While eliminating ICE would be an important step,” declares Rep. Nydia Velasquez, D-N.Y., “it alone is not enough to halt Donald Trump’s deportation machine. This administration is attacking immigrants on a multitude of fronts and we must resist on all of them.” In a Facebook post, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., brayed, “The President’s deeply immoral actions have made it obvious that we need to rebuild our immigration system from top to bottom, starting by replacing ICE with something that reflects our values.” State and local officials are also aboard. Last October, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a “sanctuary state” bill barring law enforcement from inquiring about the immigration status of criminal suspects. More recently, in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio remarked, “ICE’s time has come and gone.”

In the House of Representatives, meanwhile, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) have announced plans to introduce legislation to abolish ICE. In a July 2 opinion piece for CNN, Pocan wrote:

Though much of the President’s abusive crackdown on undocumented people and innocent children is focused on the borders, it’s also happening in countless communities across the country. From conducting raids at garden centers and meatpacking plants, to targeting families outside churches and schools, the President is using ICE to tear apart families and rip at the moral fabric of our nation.

As a result, we have heard heartbreaking stories of mothers and fathers, grandparents, community members, and workers being pursued and detained by ICE for deportation.

This maudlin rhetoric is highly misleading. Whether or not deportation is “heartbreaking,” it is a rightful and lawful response to those who come here to take advantage of our nation’s good graces, often dragging kids into the fray to create the self-fulfilling prophecy of “family separation.” Some such people, by the way, commit felonies after they arrive. According to the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, immigrants with criminal convictions comprised nearly 75 percent of all Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrests in 2017.

The drive to repeal ICE mirrors a larger contempt for law enforcement. The people demanding unconditional amnesty for “undocumented” immigrants tend to be the sorts of people who sympathize with people who shoot or otherwise assault police officers. For them, it is a matter of civil rights that America dissolve its borders, identity and sovereignty to accommodate “people of color.” At a June 30 immigrants’ rights rally in Washington, D.C., racial shakedown artist extraordinaire Al Sharpton denounced President Trump’s immigration policy as “bigoted,” citing ICE’s focus on our southern rather than northern border.

The drive to abolish ICE is a stalking horse to legalize all illegal immigration. Using “family separation” as a moral shield, activists are insisting that we open our borders and stop all deportations. Such a policy, of course, would exacerbate our ongoing national polarization. When one rewards illegal immigration – and that is what amnesty is all about – one gets more of it.

It is imperative that the Trump administration resist the Left’s latest campaign of moral exhibitionism. ICE exists to defend, not to attack. Those who would abolish the agency in effect are telling Americans that they have no right to exert control over their own country. A more un-American idea is hard to imagine.

Carl F. Horowitz is senior fellow at the National Legal and Policy Center, a Falls Church, Va.-based nonprofit group dedicated to promoting accountability and ethics in public life.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.