The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was created after 9/11 in order to investigate and eliminate illegal immigration, cross-border crimes, and national security vulnerabilities. It was created in a time of fear and xenophobia, feelings that have only grown in the era of Trump’s ‘zero-tolerance’ immigration policy. Under this administration, the group has been responsible for a record number of detentions and deportations (often without providing lawyers or due process), including the separation of nearly 3,000 minors from their parents. Because of this, it isn’t very surprising there has been a recent outcry to abolish the organization. In this article, I will outline the exact ways that ICE has violated the constitutional and human rights of illegal immigrants, and what the future of the abolish ICE movement may hold.
First, we must address the immorality of a zero-tolerance policy. Under President Donald Trump’s leadership, ICE has gone rampant in arresting possibly undocumented immigrants. They have committed atrocities such as raiding people’s homes and workspaces, arresting people in front of their families and friends, and even creating a fake university to arrest undocumented students. On top of that, there have been a shocking 1,488 U.S. citizens held wrongly in detention centers for months or even years at a time. Make no mistake, this is not a simple accident. This is blatant racial profiling with drastic consequences.
It’s also important to address the conditions of the detention centers. Children are separated from their parents and forced to sleep on mats on the floor. The microwaved meals served are abysmal in quality. In fact, one U.S. citizen who was wrongfully detained lost 26 pounds during his stay in the center. The centers also lack adequate hygiene products, toilets, or water for cleaning. Some have even compared the conditions to concentration camps during the Holocaust.
It may be easy for some to dismiss these circumstances as adequate punishment for the crime. However, the majority of the people in these centers have committed nothing more serious than illegally entering the country. These are people who have lived peacefully in America for years, holding jobs, paying taxes, and contributing to their communities in meaningful ways. Some of these people have lived in the United States their entire lives, having migrated when they were only children. These people may be deported into a country that they don’t remember, without any money, support system, or local knowledge to help them transition. The problem with a zero-tolerance policy is that it ignores individual circumstances, making the racist assumption that all illegal immigrants are dangerous criminals and treating them as such.
Not only are the practices of ICE completely morally unacceptable, but it has also violated the constitution in a number of ways. According to the ACLU, “They [ICE] implicate the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, the constitutional guarantee of due process, and the constitutional guarantee of equal protection and freedom from discrimination based on race, ethnicity, and national origin.” Contrary to popular belief, the rights defined in the constitution are not just a magical lottery granted exclusively for those of us lucky enough to be born on U.S. soil. In fact, nowhere in the first 10 amendments does the word ‘citizen’ actually appear. On the contrary, the rights of the constitution are applied by personhood and jurisdiction, meaning the laws apply to any subject on U.S. soil, whether legal or not. This does not mean immigrants are not subject to immigration law and deportation, it simply means that while they are here, the government must uphold their basic human rights as outlined by our founding fathers. This is why the practices of ICE are unconstitutional even though they are against non-citizens.
So, what can we as voters do to fix this? Well, firstly, vote. It is disappointing that this issue has received so little coverage in the 2020 campaign. Bernie Sanders is the only candidate to openly support the abolishment of ICE and redistribution of its duties, though Joe Biden has also spoken out against Trump’s immigration policy. You can also help by calling your representatives and demanding this issue receive more attention. Joining political clubs on campus, participating in marches and protests, or donating to non-profits such as the ACLU are also great steps toward positive change. Most importantly is to stay educated on current events, and to challenge the racist and xenophobic rhetoric that has been spreading through our country.