On Thursday, March 14, GOP lawmakers introduced a bill in the North Carolina General Assembly that would force county sheriffs in the state to work with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE, or face a daily fine of $25,500 if they do not work with the agency.
The 2018 sheriff elections throughout the state focused heavily on whether or not to work with the agency. In Mecklenburg County, newly elected Democratic sheriff Garry McFadden ended the 287g program that had local law enforcement to perform immigration enforcement duties. McFadden was just one of many elected sheriffs who was elected in part for their open opposition toward ICE who, in recent years, under the Obama and Trump Administrations, have gained the notoriety of targeting undocumented immigrants trying to live peacefully in the United States.
Under the Obama Administration, which deported a record 2.4 million immigrants, with about 40% of the people deported without a criminal conviction and the majority with convictions were for minor offenses. This led Janet Murguia, President of the National Council of La Raza, to refer to President Obama as the “Deporter-in-Chief.”
Despite the number of deportations during his presidency, immigration became a focal point for Donald Trump during his run to the White House in 2016. Candidate Trump began his campaign by referring to Mexicans crossing the border as “thieves and rapist.” A common action at his campaign rallies included the chanting of “Build that Wall!” referring to his promise to build a border wall across the southern border and having the Mexican government pay for it. During both the 2016 race and after his election, Trump took photos with the family members of individuals who lost loved ones because of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.
These speeches, decisions, and actions by the Trump Administration all came to a head in with the family separation crisis at the Mexican border. One area of the Trump White House has been a “Zero Toleration” policy with anyone who crosses into the US illegally, regardless of circumstances. This led to close to 3,000 minors being removed from their parents upon entering the US and being placed under arrest. Without a proper system to unify the children with their parents, many families remain separated.
The family separation was panned as a low point of the current administration and harkened back to the days of Japanese Internment Camps of the 1940s. While the family separation was played out by US Customs and Border Protection, a sister agency of ICE, the action has led to many progressives to push the “Abolish ICE” movement to close the agency. Many Presidential candidates on the Democratic side, such as Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Kirsten Gillibrand to either call for ICE’s abolishment or to take a look at the organization in its current format.
ICE, like many other aspects of the current country, is currently deeply partisan. And like many other aspects of the United States in the new millennium, the origins of ICE goes back to September 11, 2001. After the attacks, the Department of Homeland Security was formed in the Autumn of 2002, with the mission involving anti-terrorism, cybersecurity, disaster prevention, and management and immigration and customs. ICE was officially established in March of 2003 and early on, riding the wave of patriotism and a general public very much worried about security and threats from abroad, it would take a few years for criticism to begin with the agency.
The Intercept published a report in 2018 that showed the DHS office received 1,224 complaints of sexual abuse and assault, and only 43 were investigated. The article also said that, from indications of the Inspector General of the DHS, about 33,000 complaints of abuse, in general, were reported. An issue that has been brought time and time again, the difference in power between agents with ICE and undocumented immigrants is even greater than that of common police officers and citizens, as the citizens interacting with the law enforcement in this situation could potentially have little to no say in whether or not they would be able to stay in the country, let alone benefit from the justice system here.
Back to the NC proposed bill, House Bill 370, NC Speaker of the House of Representative Tim Moore said this about the bill he co-sponsored.
“If the law-abiding citizens of North Carolina are subject to enforcement of state and federal law, then illegal immigrants detained for committing crimes should be too.”
The keywords that need to be looked at here is the term, “committing crimes,” seeing that for an undocumented immigrant, their presence in the country is the crime he is talking about and the crime ICE enforces. With the Obama Administrations’ record showing that 40% of the deported immigrants had no criminal convictions and that the “zero policy” of the Trump Administration is for any illegal immigration, ICE agents are making arrests like this…
16 years have passed since ICE’s establishment. The world today is a lot different than the world of 2003. The memories of the Twins Tower falling on top of workers, firemen and police officers were fresh in the minds of millions of Americans. Today, the image of a crying Mexican baby and children sleeping in caged in converted warehouses on futons and cots are ingrained in the minds of those same millions. The debate on immigration will continue to the 2020 election and beyond, and along with that debate will be the debate on the policies and practices of those who enforce immigration policies.