The federal government has done nothing to find a reasonable solution to the number of immigrants without documentation living in the United States. While many factors have prevented progress, the state of immigration enforcement has helped sew distrust and stall compromise.
Although over the past few years U.S. citizens have considered immigration to be an important issue, the topic of immigration enforcement has not received as much attention as it should. Pundits have spent more time focused on the idea of “illegal” immigration, instead of the realities for so-called illegal immigrants. The federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency attempts to detain and deport undocumented residents practically every day.
During the 2017 fiscal year, an ICE report boasts of more than 225,000 total “removals” of undocumented residents, with around 80,000 resulting from ICE arrests.
The Supreme Court Feb. 27 ruling has highlighted the broken enforcement system. This decision prohibits detainees in immigration detention centers from receiving bail hearings, even after years of being held without due process, according to The New York Times. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a dissent to the decision, arguing that the ruling was highly unconstitutional.
“No one can claim, nor since the time of slavery has anyone to my knowledge successfully claimed, that persons held within the United States are totally without constitutional protection,” Breyer said in his dissent. “Would the Constitution leave the Government free to starve, beat, or lash those held within our boundaries? If not, then, whatever the fiction, how can the Constitution authorize the Government to imprison arbitrarily those who … are in reality right here in the United States?”
The number of people indefinitely detained in extra-judicial detention centers across the country has escalated to the point where ICE has run out of space. The agency plans to convert spaces in cities across the Midwest in order to accommodate as many as 10,000 new detainees in the next fiscal year, according to NPR. Due to the Supreme Court ruling and the fact that there are more than 650,000 pending immigration cases, thousands of people will be left in limbo for an average of 13 months
The immorality and ineffectiveness of ICE does not end with the unconstitutional detainment of thousands. Since President Donald Trump entered office, the agency has ramped up the process of separating parents from their children for extended periods of time so as to deter further immigration, according to the Los Angeles Times.
ICE has similarly targeted immigration activists and critics with apparent alacrity, arresting activists on the basis of decades-old nonviolent criminal charges, The Washington Post reports.
ICE’s raids and arrests serve to destabilize the lives of people for the crime of living without correct papers. As a source of fear for hundreds of thousands of individuals, the agency actively hurts this country and its people. The activists and farm workers ICE often targets are not threats to national security in the slightest, while the aforementioned practice of separating children from their parents is cruelty for the sake of it.
All of these facts point to one real conclusion: ICE should not exist. Before its creation only 15 years ago, its functions were fulfilled by other agencies. Today, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies could easily take up the necessary immigration enforcement operations, while the Border Patrol or the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services could assume ICE’s other roles.
Given its mandate, ICE can be expected to do little more than repeatedly rip apart people’s lives in the name of safety. To constructively address issues of immigration and security, the government should stop using ICE to peddle fear and distrust within immigrant communities. The best way to proceed is to dissolve or thoroughly reform ICE and immigration enforcement.