Those appalled by the prospect of losing ICE, which has hardly existed since time immemorial, ask who would perform its essential functions in its absence. That question doesn’t seem to concern them when it comes to other departments; they just assume those functions aren’t actually essential. Those who want to abolish ICE have a strong argument. They’re not saying the agency is useless, and they’re not saying it’s a money-sink. They’re saying it does active harm.
ICE was created in 2003 as part of the post-9/11 panic-induced increase in domestic surveillance. ICE’s animating idea was that immigrants were an existential threat. Never has ICE come close to its initial strategy goal of “a 100% rate of removal for all removable aliens,” but today’s administration seems to want to reach it more than ever – and it has more technological tools than ever, too.
Every week there’s another story. It’s a 39-year-old landscaper living near Detroit who has been here since he was 10 and hasn’t even run a stop sign. It’s a 10-year-old with cerebral palsy sitting in an ambulance on the way to the hospital for emergency gall bladder surgery. It’s the 92 Somalis who were beaten and threatened and forced to urinate on themselves on a deportation flight that ended up returning to the United States, and who are now still being held in abusive detention.
Calls to abolish ICE aren’t just random gestures to “small government” like Republican mad lib arguments to abolish federal agencies that Rick Perry inadvertently perfected. The agency is a recent creation, formed out of 9/11 panic, and it has been a disaster. As for the question “but who will engage in random, race-profiled deportations of otherwise law-abiding people without due process done to maximize terror to their communities?”, “nobody” is a perfectly good answer.