ABOLISH ICE: America's immigration roundup squad must go.

Author:Dalmia, Shikha
Position:IMMIGRATION - Immigration and Customs Enforcement

IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS Enforcement (ICE) was created in the panicked days after 9/11 to enhance national security. But its primary purpose has become hunting down and ejecting people whose main "crime" often is that they can't obtain a piece of paper from the government authorizing them to live and work in the United States.

America got along just fine for 225 years before ICE, the monstrous child of the wars on drugs and terrorism, was spawned. It can do so again.

After 9/11, at the behest of the George W. Bush administration, lawmakers voted to consolidate 22 federal agencies and 170,000 employees under the Department of Homeland Security. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (previously part of the Justice Department) and the U.S. Customs Service (previously part of the Treasury Department) were swept into this newly created behemoth and then redivided into U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and ICE.

But ensconcing immigration in a department focused on national security resulted in a mentality shift. Immigrants came to be regarded not as friends but as foes--potential terrorists or criminals. (This, even though cities with large immigrant populations have lower crime rates than cities with fewer immigrants.)

To be clear, the criminalization of immigrants long predates 9/11. Bill Clinton got the ball rolling after his senior adviser, Rahm Emanuel, urged him to wrest the crime issue from Republicans by "achiev[ing] record deportations of criminal aliens."

To do that, Clinton dusted off a 1988 law that--borrowing a page from the mandatory minimum sentences that were statutorily imposed on drug crimes in that decade--required the mandatory detention and "expedited removal" of criminal aliens without so much as a hearing or any consideration of circumstances.

Before that point, "criminal aliens" referred to immigrants, whether in the country legally or not, who had committed violent offenses or serious property crimes. But Clinton worked with Congress to pass two more laws--the Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act and the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act--to vastly expand the definition of what counts as an "aggravated felony" for which an immigrant may be deported, and to apply it retroactively to crimes committed many years ago. Murder and rape were included, of course. But so were misdemeanors such as minor drug possession, driving under the influence...

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