Sunday, October 21, 2018

Should We Abolish ICE?

Even before the Trump directed zero tolerance illegal immigration policy in which every person who unlawfully entered the United States would theoretically face prosecution, some people, usually those who were sympathetic to illegal immigrants or illegal immigrants themselves were calling for the elimination of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In terms of immigration law, ICE's primary responsibility is interior enforcement. 

But with Trump's cruel misstep and resulting horrible images of desperate parents separated from their children more and more people have called for the abolition of ICE. Luminaries such as Keith Ellison, Pramila Jayapal, and Mark Pocan, presumptive US Representative to be, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, US Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Kirsten Gillibrand, and NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio have all recommended eliminating ICE.  

Some politicians, intellectuals, and activists have been coy about what they see as ICE's replacement. Others are pretty straightforward that they don't want to deport anyone. Not One More Deportation is what they believe. So they don't want a replacement for ICE. Some people claim that they don't believe in borders. They argue that citizenship is an unfair caste system that should be eliminated. They say that because the United States was born in conquest and genocide, the US has no right to restrict entry for anyone. I don't believe that everyone clamoring to abolish ICE has thought everything through. Some politicians who scream the loudest about abolishing ICE don't want to actually vote to do so.

Although many good decent intelligent people in my circle of otherwise likeminded friends, associates and relatives support calls to abolish or defenestrate ICE, I don't. Abolishing ICE is a bad idea. When calls for abolishing ICE emanate from foreign nationals, I see that as bank robbers complaining that the police shouldn't exist. If I had successfully snuck into another country, I would be peeved to get tapped on the shoulder by the authorities and removed. But it would take a LOT of chutzpah on my part for me to argue that the nation's officials had no right to decide who enters or resides in their country. And that's the only relevant point here. It's THEIR country, not mine. 

By the same token, the US is MY country, or rather OUR country if you happen to be a citizen. If you're not a citizen your opinion on US immigration policy is not really relevant to the debate. Foreign nationals have no business telling us what our immigration policy should be. That's a decision for US citizens. You may remember that the previous President cut back on interior enforcement. I didn't like President Obama's decisions regarding that, but as people explained, the President sets ICE's priorities. A police chief may decide not to ticket people going less than 15 mph over the speed limit. Similarly a President may decide that absent some other violent felony, he's not going to spend time or resources chasing down illegal immigrants.

We have a new President who won at least in part precisely because many people wanted stricter enforcement around illegal immigration. That he is using the same tools available to the previous President doesn't mean that the tools are suddenly illegitimate. We should remember that the current President will not be the last one. Be careful what powers you grant to or remove from the President.

Some people point to US history as the reason why they say that no one is illegal, that no one should ever be deported and that all attempts to regulate immigration are racist and illegitimate by definition. The history is ugly, no doubt about it.

However, there's not a single country in the entire Western Hemisphere that wasn't created by and built on some mix of European invasion, conquest, settlement and colonization, African enslavement and subordination, and Indigenous genocide, expulsion and defeat. Not a freaking one. It is what it is. The US is not unique in that regard. US history doesn't logically imply that someone from Guatemala should be able to enter the US without permission.

There are indeed large swaths of the US which used to belong to Mexico.

There are few countries on the planet that were always at their current size. Revanchism is not self-evidently moral, if you happen not to belong to the ethnic/national group that's making the claim.
  • The Celts used to own England. The Anglo-Saxons chased them out, bred them out or killed them.
  • The English used to control large portions of France and Ireland. Now they don't.
  • The Norwegians and Danes used to rule England. Now they don't.
  • The Germans used to control Danzig. Now they don't. The Polish do and call it Gdansk.
  • The Arabs used to control Spain and Portugal. Now they don't.
  • The Romans used to control the entire Mediterranean and several points north, east and south of it. Now they don't.
  • The Dutch used to run Indonesia. Now they don't.
  • The French used to run Algeria. Now they don't.
  • The Greeks used to run Pakistan and Iran. Now they don't.
  • The Greeks used to have Constantinople. The Turks took it from them and renamed it Istanbul. They aren't giving it back.
  • The Turks used to own Greece and much of Eastern Europe. Now they don't. And so on.
In the context of whether illegal immigration today is justified it doesn't matter that parts of the US used to be Mexico. Parts of Mexico used to belong to Spain and France. And before that parts of it belonged to the Aztecs and others. Life happens. We can't change the past.

The question is how do we deal with today's challenges. The US is a sovereign nation. Eliminating ICE would mean that anyone could enter the US and stay as long as they liked. People who support this haven't explained what this would mean for labor markets, cultural cohesion, political extremism, respect for the law, our social safety net, housing costs, or several other immigration related externalities. But if that's what people want let them argue for it. Don't just say abolish ICE. Go ahead and say that you don't want the US to have the ability to deport anyone.
There's rarely a ninety day period that passes without a Black US citizen, often a Black man or boy, being harassed, wrongfully arrested, grabbed, choked, held at gunpoint, beaten, gassed, tased, insulted, threatened, molested, shot, or killed by his local police force. Local or federal prosecutors rarely bring charges in these situations. Usually accused police officers are exonerated at trial or on appeal. 

That is the way life is. I haven't heard any US Senator or US Representative stand up and call the NYPD a fascist organization or demand that the police department in Podunk, Missouri or Buttwipe, Michigan be disbanded because of its ugly record with Black citizens. Why is that? It could be because most Americans are not Black and may have limited empathy on this issue. But it's more likely that most Americans of all backgrounds understand that eliminating the police might cause more problems than it solves. Reform is a better choice than elimination.

People care about multiple issues. I have no problem with that. We all have foreign policy interests and concerns that many fellow citizens couldn't care less about. But when you're putting the desires of foreign nationals before the needs of your own citizens you're doing something wrong. It's wrong when Black American elected officials who haven't said a mumbling word or done squat about their impoverished and discriminated against Black constituents scramble to microphones to weep over the deportation of a foreign national. I question that politician's motives and priorities. A Black politician who was gung ho for DACA had to be shamed by youtube bloggers into even saying something about her own constituents suffering from hookworm. HOOKWORM!!!

Border and interior enforcement is part of having a country. ICE is necessary for that. You can call it whatever you want and place it anywhere in the bureaucracy that you like. But at the end of the day if you want a country someone will have the job of identifying and removing people without right or permission to be here. It's not a pretty task. And it never will be. If Democrats continue to willingly be identified as placing the desires of foreign nationals over the concerns of citizens, they will struggle to become a majority party. 

A person can make an argument for increased immigration or to allow many illegal immigrants to remain. I wouldn't find the argument very convincing but I am just one among millions. If that person wants citizens to support his idea he must appeal to their self-interest first, not that of the foreigner. Doing otherwise just irritates a lot of citizens. Lecturing American citizens on why they don't deserve their citizenship or trying to blur the distinction between citizen and non-citizen is precisely the wrong approach. It's horrible framing politically. How does abolishing ICE help American citizens? Foreign nationals don't vote. Citizens do.
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