The Trump administration has taken a heavy hand to the topic of immigration with very critical results. Activists and legal professionals have shared their thoughts on the new era of ICE, but someone from the inside has decided to share their thoughts on the problematic climate change in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
In piece by Jonathan Blitzer for The New Yorker on Monday (Jul. 24), a veteran ICE agent shared his ongoing frustrations with the agency and how personal bias has grown in the workplace since President Donald Trump took office earlier this year.
“We used to look at things through the totality of the circumstances when it came to a removal order—that’s out the window,” the agent who has been employed since the Clinton administration said. “I don’t know that there’s that appreciation of the entire realm of what we’re doing. It’s not just the person we’re removing. It’s their entire family.” The amount of deportations handled this year rose by 33 percent in 2016. CNN reports the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement removal group made 21,362 arrests from Jan. 20 to March 13, including 5,441 non-criminals. The agent, who remained anonymous, says there’s little compassion left in the field.
“People say, ‘Well, they put themselves in this position because they came illegally.’ I totally understand that. But you have to remember that our job is not to judge,” he said. “The problem is that now there are lots of people who feel free to feel contempt.”
In addition to increase of raids, the demonizing of undocumented immigrants has continued with some agents refusing to provide interpreters in many of the deportation cases.
“I have officers who are more likely now to push back,” the agent said. “I’d never have someone say, ‘Why do I have to call an interpreter? Why don’t they speak English?’ Now I get it frequently. I get this from people who are younger. That’s one group. And I also get it from people who are ethnocentric: ‘Our way is the right way—I shouldn’t have to speak in your language. This is America.’ “
“I don’t see the point in it,” the agent said. “The plan is to take them back into custody, and then figure it out. I don’t understand it. We’re doing it because we can, and it bothers the hell out of me.”
The agent’s most poignant concern is the ambitious route taken to remove young adults from their homes who traveled into the country with their parents as infants. “The whole idea is targeting kids. I know that technically they meet the legal definition of being adults. Fine. But if they were my kids traveling in a foreign country, I wouldn’t be O.K. with this,” the agent said. “We’re not doing what we tell people we do. If you look next month, or at the end of this month, at the people in custody, it’s people who’ve been here for years. They’re supposed to be in high school.”
Cases are now stacking up due to the overflow of holding cells. A breakthrough however, came in the form of a ruling at Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on Monday when it was determined that law enforcement do not have the authority to detain a person based solely on a request from ICE. This may cut down their reach, but the roots still pose worries for undocumented residents.