Earlier this week we looked at the growing chorus on the left seeking to make the idea of abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) a platform plank for the Democrats in 2018 and 2020. This relatively fringe idea has been rapidly picking up steam in the commentariat, even though they haven’t been able to convince potential POTUS candidates like Kamala Harris to endorse it.
The movement gained another high profile supporter yesterday when op-ed columnist Molly Roberts at the Washington Post joined the parade. Apparently noting the reluctance of experienced politicians and generally sane people to endorse the concept, Roberts gamely goes to bat, asking what’s so crazy about the idea of eliminating a federal agency.
The clarion calls to excise ICE from the executive corpus have rung especially clear of late. First, an essay by Sean McElwee in the Nation last week probed whether “an unaccountable strike force executing a campaign of ethnic cleansing” is compatible with democracy. (His answer: No.) Then, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes asked potential 2020 presidential contender Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) if the agency, which Harris says has abused its power, should exist. (Her answer: Yes.)
To Harris’s further-left detractors, the resignation Tuesday of San Francisco’s ICE spokesman after the Trump administration put out false public statements about a recent raid offered one more reason that she’s wrong. Of course ICE is abusing its power, they argue – that’s what it was created to do. And anyone who plans to lead the Democratic Party should say so and fight to defund it. Conservative and more moderate commentators, on the other hand, act as if they’ve never heard a proposition so radical. Take a government agency and just … get rid of it? Who’d ever suggest something so extreme?…
What’s happening today is happening because of Trump, but it’s also happening because of what ICE was always meant to be: an immigrant disposal system. The agency isn’t after “good” guys or “bad” guys. It’s after everyone. “The shackles [are] off,” as Trump said, but the beast they were holding back was born 15 years ago. Being a good Democrat might just mean killing it.
Roberts goes on to point out how many other government agencies and departments have been targeted for elimination by both parties over the years. (The IRS, Education and Energy are among those questioned by Republicans. Even Barack Obama suggested getting rid of the Commerce Department.) And if we were examining the question in a vacuum she’d have a point. Reducing funding for and shrinking the size of various, bloated government agencies has long been a selling point in political campaigns. Eliminating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a great example.
What the author studiously fails to reveal, however, is that each and every one of those agencies is still in existence and going strong. Such ideas are frequently discussed, but almost never acted on aside from some budget cuts and personnel reductions. But that’s really not the point here.
There’s a difference between a bureaucracy like the CFPB shuffling paperwork or dreaming up new regulations and a critical law enforcement agency. In any given city you could probably eliminate the committee that plans parades or cleans the public parks, turning those duties over to someone else, and still keep the town running for a while. But if you suddenly eliminate all of the police and sheriff’s deputies overnight you’re going to be in Mad Max territory in a matter of days.
Roberts is correct in noting that ICE hasn’t been around as long as any of the other, major law enforcement agencies. It was summoned into existence by the Homeland Security Act in 2003 in response to the 2001 terror attacks. It was one of three agencies charged with administering the nation’s immigration system in recognition of a new era of threats to national security and a realization that the job of enforcing immigration laws was simply not being done. The number of victories they’ve scored in terms of getting criminal illegal aliens out of the country is impressive. They’ve also managed to whittle away at the backlog of more than ten million illegal aliens roaming the lands.
But the stunning part of Roberts’ column is really her characterization of the purpose of the agency. She describes ICE as, “an immigrant disposal system.” Did you notice the missing word in that sentence? It’s the same one which seems to be unable to be formed on the lips of most Democrats and their enablers in the mainstream media. ICE isn’t in the business of getting rid of “immigrants.” All immigrants who are here legally and following our laws are free to come and go as they please without fear. ICE is here to dispose of illegal immigrants. And if your premise is that we shouldn’t be doing that job, by all means, please make that the platform for all Democrats to run on. Let’s see how well the public responds.