While Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have for years pursued joining the U.S. Intelligence Community, the agency is closer than ever to doing so under the Trump administration, The Daily Beast reported Wednesday evening. Should ICE effectively become a spy agency, it would have “increased access to raw intelligence, unfiltered by analysts”—the kind of information that would allow it to double down on targeting and tracking down undocumented immigrants with criminal warrants.
While President Trump could theoretically sign ICE into the IC by executive order, The Daily Beast reports that it’s more likely that Kirstjen Nielsen, Homeland Security secretary, would sign off on the effort. It would then move to the National Intelligence director and Congress for final approval.
For months, ICE has ramped up surveillance of travelers, refugees, asylum seekers, students, and others entering the U.S. by aggressively monitoring their social media posts “starting the moment they apply for a visa and extending throughout their stay.”
But becoming a member of the Intelligence Community would dramatically expand the scope of information to which ICE would be privy. Patrick Toomey, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, told The Daily Beast the prospect “should sound alarm bells,” adding:
“Such a move threatens to give an agency responsible for domestic immigration enforcement access to a vast pool of sensitive information collected by our spy agencies for foreign intelligence purposes. Those spying tools do not belong in the hands of ICE agents.”
Advocates for the move argue the information would be useful for ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations branch, the department that investigates crimes like drug and arms trafficking, money laundering, and cyber crimes.