Sunday, May 27, 2018

Disbanding ICE?

Sounds pretty radical to push to disband a government agency, right?  When I first started hearing "Disband ICE," I kind of recoiled because I thought it was too far of a reaction.  I do worry about the left moving too far to the left, that pushing for the end of an agency seemed too radical.  Both that it was an unrealistic demand and also something that would get in the way of real reform. 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement would seem to be a necessary agency--that if one has immigration and custom laws, one would need a body to enforce them.  Yet the United States managed without ICE until 2003.  It is a relatively new government body, and it was one of the many hasty reforms, along with the creation of its Frankenstein monster of a parent agency--the Department of Homeland Secuirity--that was built in the aftermath of 9/11.  When is it a particularly bad time to build new institutions?  When people are panicking and when a national emergency has caused Congress and the media to give the executive branch carte blanche (note that most of the major institutional reforms of the US national security state happened after World War II and mostly before the development of McCarthyism).

To be clear, ICE and the laws it was enforcing existed before Trump and were subjecting people to real harm under Obama.  That actually means that there is a greater need to do something serious rather than just say that the next administration can just appoint the right people at the top. 

The abuses over the past year and half or so are making the case for ICE's disbanding.  Rather than seeking out violent people who violated immigration and customs laws, the agency has been showing up at schools, hospitals, courts, and elsewhere to grab people who have committed no crimes in the US, including Dreamers whose status should shield them from deportation.  They defy judges who get in the way

When a government agency becomes the go-to threat, it may be time to go.  I don't recall in my lifetime people threatening those who are different that they would call the FBI on them, but now we have both random racists and the Secretary of Education threatening to call ICE.  I can't help but think of the Gestapo and other coercive agencies that could be wielded as threats to their citizens.

How do ICE agents implement their mandate? With brutality and, thus far, impunity.  The stories of ICE now seeking to destroy records of their assaults, their rapes, and their other abuses show that the agency is beyond redemption.  Anyone seeking to destroy records of their misdeeds (um, Gina Haspel) cannot be trusted.  Accountability starts with the record of behavior, and if you cannot tolerate having that record exist, then you are opposed to being held accountable. 

ICE is not the only agency that engages in awful behavior.  I think the difference is that this is the majority of what ICE does.  The FBI, the ATF, local law enforcement, and other agencies have all had their problems, but for those actors, the problems are bugs, not a feature.  For ICE, their awful methods are not exceptions but seem to be the rule. 

So, yeah, in 2020, I want to see the Democratic candidates for President outbid each other in promising to disband ICE.  I am not usually a fan of candidates being pushed further and further to an extreme by the far end of a party, but, as I said above, there is no redemption for ICE, even before we heard of what they were doing to the children.  And, no, I am not going to vote for Democratic candidates who suggest that ICE just needs some modest tweaks. 

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