Pity the poor agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Before Donald Trump ascended to the presidency, they had to content themselves with targeting the more hardcore criminals and national security threats among the nation’s undocumented population. This apparently led to a sense of malaise in the ranks.
But now that the Trump administration has decided to deport seemingly anyone with a pulse and an expired visa, The Washington Post reports that the “shackles” that were holding the agency back have been removed. As a result, immigration arrests in the past year were up over 40 percent, and morale among ICE agents has greatly improved.
Another result is that while critics and the occasional judge have had more reason than ever to question the humaneness of America’s immigration policy, defenders of ICE have found themselves playing the “we’re just following orders” excuse for the agency’s newfound creativity in targeting the undocumented:
“What are we supposed to do?” said Matthew Albence, the top official in the agency’s immigration enforcement division, who described the administration’s goal as simply restoring the rule of law. If ICE fails to uphold its duties to enforce immigration laws, he added, “then the system has no integrity.”
Of course, what critics question is not the integrity of the system, but the entire system itself. If the system allows immigration agents to arrest an otherwise law-abiding person who has been in the country illegally for 30 years, and to do so in a way that terrorizes the man’s family for no other apparent reason than to send a message to other undocumented immigrants about who is in charge, then perhaps it is an inhumane system that needs to be rethought:
Critics say ICE is increasingly grabbing at the lowest-hanging fruit of deportation-eligible immigrants to meet the president’s unrealistic goals, replacing a targeted system with a scattershot approach aimed at boosting the agency’s enforcement statistics.
ICE wants to say it is simply following the law. But it can choose through its procedures how it enforces that law, and in the past year, it has done so in a way designed to inflict maximum terror and fear on immigrant populations. That doing so has apparently raised its agents’ morale so much should be greatly troubling.