By current head count, nine U.S. lawmakers are calling for an end to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. One additional senator, Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), acknowledges the need for an ICE-type law enforcement agency but thinks “we need to probably think about starting from scratch.”
All ten, and their water carriers in the media, are getting pushback from an unlikely but knowledgeable source, former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who published an op-ed in the Washington Post titled “Abolishing ICE is not a serious policy proposal.”
Johnson, who oversaw the agency during the last three years of Barack Obama’s presidency, is frank and unwavering in his criticism of those who oppose ICE, which he considers an essential agency. “The outright abolition of ICE,” he writes, “would compromise public safety.”
While he doesn’t come right out and mention Donald Trump by name, he tacitly endorses the current president’s deployment of ICE, which is a continuation of the agency’s operations during the Obama years:
… President Barack Obama gave me the policy direction to focus ICE’s deportation resources on recent border crossers and those undocumented immigrants convicted of serious crimes. We did that. In those years, the number of deportations from the interior United States went down, but the percentage of those deported who were serious criminals went up. We stripped away the barriers that existed between ICE and so-called sanctuary cities. By the time I left office, 21 of the 25 largest jurisdictions that had refused to comply with ICE detainers — written requests to delay the release of people arrested by local law enforcement — had signaled a willingness to work with ICE again in pursuit of the most dangerous undocumented criminals.
If there is solace for Democrats anywhere in Johnson’s column, it is toward the end, where he writes:
… I constantly reminded ICE leadership that controversial, high-profile cases of fathers torn from their families and students pulled from their schools for deportation would turn ICE into a pariah in the very communities where its agents must work, and would threaten to undermine ICE’s larger public-safety mission. I regret to watch that happening now, as ICE is vilified across the country and sanctuary cities are emboldened to proclaim themselves as such.
But here Johnson is being duplicitous. As noted in a recent post, the number of juveniles under the age of 18 separated from their legal adult guardians in 2016, Obama’s last year in office, was 61,254. That figure is 3,000 higher than the number of separated minors during Donald Trump’s first year. ICE didn’t become a pariah on Obama’s watch because the press chose not to report these stories.