As calls to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency grow louder with each passing day, the movement to get rid of one of President Donald Trump’s most effective tools for terrorizing immigrant communities has gained a surprising group of semi-allies: ICE agents.
Arguing that the Trump administration’s focus on attacking undocumented immigrants has hindered the agency’s ability to effectively combat other issues, 19 agents heading ICE Homeland Security Investigations offices across the country have appealed to Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen to dismantle their own agency and create two separate entities in its wake: One investigatory, to continue the crime, drug, and child pornography-related work HSI is involved in, and the other solely dedicated to immigration-related actions, such as arrests, detentions, and deportations. (It would obviously be even better if that second proposed agency never got off the ground, but I suppose you’ve got to start somewhere.)
In their letter to Sec. Nielsen, the agents write:
There are numerous reasons the establishment of two separate agencies will improve both agencies. Both agencies have suffered low approval ratings in recent DHS Federal Viewpoint surveys. The establishment of two separate agencies will allow employees to develop a strong agency pride. The current structure does not allow for each agency’s distinctive missions to develop; rather, it results in each agency lacking the ability to find a direction and seemingly competing for budget, resources and an identity. Regarding identity, there are both internal and external aspects. ICE has two organizational missions of equal significance Detention and Removal and Transnational Investigations. Every other Federal law enforcement agency is organized with just one primary mission to improve focus and effectiveness.
While their goal is hardly as radical as that of those who want to dismantle ICE for humanitarian reasons (effectively, the agents’ criticism is one of effectiveness, not a flaw in the agency’s underlying mission) it nevertheless points to the fact that under the Trump administration, ICE has become even more of a grotesque, mismanaged mess whose fanatical devotion to anti-immigrant policy has overshadowed its other, more straightforward investigations.
I have reached out to both ICE and the Department of Homeland Security for comment, and will update this story with their response.
If you’re wondering whether ICE will actually take its own agents’ advice (to say nothing of that of a growing chorus of outraged citizens) and abolish itself, well, don’t hold your breath. Speaking with the New York Times, a senior ICE official acknowledged there are “operational challenges raised in that letter that merit some discussion,” which reads more like a generic response to a suggestion dropped into a comment box than anything resembling serious consideration.