A Modest Proposal: A World Without ICE

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Sorry, ICE, but it's time for you to go...

Let me be the first to propose a total moratorium on all ICE activities, as preparation for the agency's ultimate demise. Why? The explanation is simple. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has itself become an outlaw organization, one responsible for significant violations of human and civil rights, the perpetuation of racial profiling in the era of America's first black President Elect, the systematic criminalization of workers, the relocation of whole masses of undocumented who have done nothing wrong other than violate civil immigration law, and -- ICE's most heinous crime -- the incessant dismantling of hundreds of thousands of immigrant families, often leaving children here in the U.S. to fend for themselves when their parents are deported.

ICE has empowered power-mad individuals such as Sheriff Joe Arpaio with federal 287(g) authority, and transformed whole police departments into agents of racism and cruelty. Central American immigrants are stopped for minor traffic violations, or for invented ones, and find themselves imprisoned, then deported. Through such actions, ICE is further imperiling an already imperiled economy. As Wall Street Journal editorial board member Jason Riley writes in his book, Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders, a flexible labor market is essential for a competitive U.S. economy. And just such a labor market requires a constant influx of new arrivals.

In his libertarian-minded manifesto for open borders, Riley proves over and over again that the job market in America is not a zero sum game. There are not a finite number of jobs, and every major economic study has shown that new immigrants create jobs, not siphon them away. So my argument is an economic, not just a moral one. ICE must eventually cease to exist for the economic survival of the country, as well as to fulfill the famous inscription at the base of Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..."

Indeed, ICE's mission stands in direct conflict with the principles America has been weaned on. But how would real criminals, you might ask, murderers and rapists who are here illegally be handled in ICE's absence? They would be convicted and serve their time, then be repatriated to their home countries through a new, much pared down replacement for ICE. The rest of ICE's employees and agents would be reassigned to protecting us from the real bad guys. You know, the terrorists. Not Jose coming to break his back for his family's betterment.

Other voices are hinting at a moratorium as well. In an op-ed that ran today in the Houston Chronicle, Robert Hildreth of the National Immigrant Bond Fund (an organization that helps bail out immigrants collared by ICE) points out that ICE is wasting taxpayer funds at an alarming rate. He notes that ICE spent $1.6 billion on detention last year, and the large majority of those in detention are no threat to Americans at all.

"ICE spent $5.2 million on a kosher-meat-packing-plant raid in Postville, Iowa, or about $14,000 per immigrant," writes Hildreth."Added to this cost was ICE's unprecedented decision to prosecute the immigrants criminally rather than in immigration court. It meant millions of extra dollars spent on keeping the defendants in jail. Had the immigrants been tried in immigration courts, they would have been deported at little expense."

Later Hildreth adds:

"In a factory raid in New Bedford, Mass., ICE put 200 workers, shackled head to toe, on chartered airliners and flew them to Texas prisons at a cost of $200,000, only to fly 40 back at additional cost when they were granted release on bail.
"For all this expense, taxpayers might expect that ICE caught some bad guys -- terrorists or criminals posing a real threat to us. Alas, they found only workers, many undocumented but otherwise harmless."

Hildreth suggests a three-pronged reform: Focus ICE on catching bad guys, not workers; maintain immigration cases in the courts provided for those cases; and stop flying immigrants around the country, which is expensive.

In an article that appeared last month on The Nation online, writer David Bacon goes a lot further, demanding a cessation of ICE worksite enforcement raids, a position that, by the way, has already been outlined and supported by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Recently, a group calling itself FIRE, or "Flagstaff Immigrant Rights Enforcement," delivered a "notice of deportation" to an ICE management meeting taking place at a Flagstaff hotel. The video of the stunt, which I posted a few days ago, is humorous, but like all good agitprop theater, it made me think. Specifically, it caused me to imagine a world without ICE. And I have to admit, a world without ICE would be a lot better off than one with it.

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