The union that represents immigration officers revealed its true colors this week by endorsing the presidential candidate who has built his campaign on demonizing Mexican immigrants.
“I was just endorsed by ICE. They've never endorsed anybody before on immigration,” Donald Trump boasted during Monday night's presidential debate.
This is a really serious problem. Mexican immigrants are a big part of the population that immigration officers interact with every single day. So when the union of 5,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents voted to publicly endorse Trump for president, it was a real ah-ha moment for immigrant communities. By backing a man who has repeatedly bashed Mexican immigrants, ICE officers are effectively proving that the immigrant community's long-held fears and concerns about discrimination have been justified all along.
"This is totally inappropriate for them to be acting in the political domain because they are government employees" said Bill Ong Hing, a professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law. “It signifies bias against groups like Mexicans, who are the most significant number of undocumented immigrants.”
Hing said the endorsement could even lead to legal accusations of racial profiling. And that's not insignificant considering that Mexican nationals topped the list of 235,000 immigrants that ICE deported last year, according to ICE data.
In short, ICE's union, which only represents about a quarter of all ICE employees, has made a public endorsement that could create lasting problems for the entire agency long after Trump's candidacy ends.
In a statement issued Monday, union president Chris Crane said the ICE agents endorsed Trump because his immigration policies “outlined core policies needed to restore immigration security." The group thanked Trump for proposing increased interior enforcement, border security and mandatory detainers, promising to end Sanctuary Cities, and repealing President Obama’s executive orders that protect young people from deportation.
But in reality, the “interior enforcement” policies proposed by Trump are not much different from those adopted by President Obama. Most recently ICE has focused on conducting early morning raids to detain women and children who have fled persecution in Central America. The looming fears of an impending raid can throw immigrants communities into a frenzy with rumors.
Immigrant rights activists fear that frenzy would only get worse under a President Trump.
“This paints a very frightening possibility if Trump becomes the president of a vast, omnipresent entity that is going in and out of communities at will and basically disrupting law-abiding families that live in the country,” said Hing.
Immigrants' confidence in ICE is already near zero, and would only weaken if Trump were elected, activists say.
“There is no trust between ICE and our communities,” said Cristina Jimenez, co-founder of United We Dream Action, an immigrant youth led advocacy group. “Our community’s experience with ICE has already been terrifying, but ICE and the Border Patrol under Trump would be worse for our communities.”
While ICE employees endorsing a presidential candidate is unprecedented, it’s not the first time the group has dabbled in politics. In recent years, ICE has testified in Congress against President Obama’s executive orders, and have even sued the president over his executive orders.
A U.S. District Judge threw out the case, citing "lack of subject-matter jurisdiction" over disputes between federal employees and their employer, the U.S. government.
The National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council did not respond to Fusion’s request for comment on this story.