Ever since far-left firebrand Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez miraculously defeated veteran representative and political moderate Joseph Crowley this past summer in the Democratic primary for New York’s 14th Congressional District, the nation has once again focused on the potential of the revival of Bernie-Sanders-brand of democratic socialism. However, one of the most controversial elements of Ocasio-Cortez’s policy platform was geared at reforming American society instead of the American economy, specifically concerning undocumented immigration to the United States. In a June 2018 interview with CNN, Ocasio-Cortez slammed the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as an organization that conducts operations of “extrajudicial nature” and implied that creating ICE was a mistake comparable to invading Iraq. However, while some parts of ICE need to be reformed, abolishing an entire government agency will have significant consequences and will likely just exacerbate America’s problem with illegal immigration as well as harm the American economy.
One of biggest repercussions of abolishing ICE would be the job security and financial status of ICE’s employees. The agency currently employs over 20,000 people in over 400 offices. If ICE is dissolved, these people will likely become instantly unemployed. What will become of them? Also, the ICE currently has a $6 billion budget. Where will that money go? That concern may seem frivolous now, but Congress already has a history of failing to pass spending bills by necessary deadlines, like the recent threat of a government shutdown. The last thing our legislators need is more money to argue about spending.
One of Ocasio-Cortez’s most emotionally-charged talking points against ICE is when she enumerates their brutality. After a June 2018 debate with Crowley, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that “ICE is operating exactly as designed when it rips screaming children from parents.” But that is not necessarily true. In 2017, ICE made over 143,000 administrative arrests (likely for deportation), and 92% of those arrested had a criminal conviction, pending criminal charges pending against them, or were fugitives avoiding arrest. Tearing up innocent families is clearly not on the ICE agenda. Ocasio-Cortez also made the claim that ICE is “required” to fill “34,000 beds each night” as part of some sort of horrific detention quota. ICE is required to have 34,000 beds available but is not required to fill them, so it is no surprise that Politifact rated her claims as “false.” Furthermore, ICE reported that deportation removals in 2017 decreased by 17% from 2016, so there is more evidence suggesting that ICE is not trying to prop up their arrest numbers to fulfill Ocasio-Cortez’s bogus quota. ICE is tasked with maintaining the integrity of our immigration law. While some of its actions are not ethical, such as the recent separation of immigrant families, they are also key in removing thousands of dangerous criminals from our society each year. Using blatant falsehoods to lambast the reasonably effective crime-fighting organization that is ICE will only hurt Americans that try their best to keep their borders safe.
It cannot be stressed enough that reforming ICE (such as when President Trump signed an executive order ending his previous “zero tolerance” immigration policy that was responsible for family separation) so that they treat immigrant families with respect and dignity should be the priority here, not eliminating the entire agency.
Tuhin Chakraborty is an 18 year old freshman at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. He is considering studying History and Political Science there. His favorite book is Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert. Tuhin believes that success is gaining the respect of everyone who knows you. He steps up for Civic Engagement: getting young people involved in politics and community action.