Melting the Ambiguity and Power of ICE


C. S. Ryan | Politics & Government | Analysis | July 2nd, 2018



In less than a week, the people of the world have forced the President of the United States of America to no longer allow detained immigrants to intentionally be separated from their family members. Such an inhumane practice has been permitted at more than 400 detention facilities supervised by ICE agents in the United States.

What this piece aims to do is delineate ICE as an organization and provide a critical analysis of U.S. foreign-policy initiatives, the proposed solution to the ICE facility attention, and an honest call to action.


ICE: Its History and Functions

When discussing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), there is an ambiguity in consideration to its foundation. We know that ICE is the problem, but what is ICE?

ICE was born in 2003, in accordance with the Homeland Security Act of 2002 following the events of September 11, 2001. Since, ICE has become the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, the second largest body of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and the second largest "criminal investigative agency" in the U.S. (trailing the FBI). There are more than 20,000 ICE employees in over 400 offices in the U.S. and in 46 countries abroad.

ICE has two primary arms: Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO). Each are equally important.

There are approximately 6,500 HSI agents. HSI agents have the authority to enforce the Immigration and Nationality Act ( Title 8 ), U.S. Customs Laws ( Title 19 ), general federal crimes ( Title 18 ), Controlled Substances Act ( Title 21 ), as well as Titles 5, 6, 12, 22, 26, 28, 31, 46, 49, and 50 of the U.S. Code .

The HSI agents are to investigate national-security threats such as human rights violations, human trafficking, drug trafficking, document and benefit fraud, transnational gang activity, cash smuggling, money laundering, and the like.

Their international offices are used to combat transnational criminal activities and work with governments abroad to prevent such activities from entering the U.S. This policy framework can be considered something similar to the "National Security States" used in Central America to repress what was then considered a communist infiltration, known as the supposed "Real Terror Network". Today, we must keep in mind that we've passed the "end of history". Communism is out, terrorism is in. With terrorism at the frontline is bred the dehumanization of the migrants, no longer the Reds. The war on communism has morphed into the war on terror; and ICE, with its HSI agents, are spearheading this new war.

There are other functions of the HSI, but this synopsis should do. Next, we will investigate the ERO.

The ERO are the ones primarily responsible for the current national spotlight. Their function is to capture illegal immigrants and assure their removal from the U.S. In the time between this removal, the families being expedited are held in government and "charity-sponsored" detention camps, or in the case of the Brownsville Detention facility in Texas, a shelled-out Walmart.

The ERO has been strengthened by the Immigration and Nationality Act Section 287(g) , which allows ICE to cooperate with state and local law enforcement agencies. In doing such, it authorizes the Secretary of Homeland Security to also work with state and local law enforcement agencies, permitting officers to perform immigration law enforcement functions. As such, ICE provides these law enforcement officers with the training to identify, process, and detain immigrants.

In detainment, the so-called aliens are placed in the detention centers (similar to jails) mentioned above. Something very important to note here is that, as of 2009, the U.S. Congress has mandated that ICE detention centers must have at least 34,000 people confined each night. Thus, by law and similar to prisons again, there is a requirement (quota) for detention.

Between 2003 and 2007, 107 people died in ICE custody. The New York Times reported that in some cases officials used their supervisory roles to cover up evidence of mistreatment and avoid media coverage of "substandard care or abuse". Between 2010 and 2017, The Intercept reported that 1,224 sexual assault complaints had been made in ICE detention facilities, with only 3% being investigated.


U.S. Foreign Policy: Fighting "Terrorism" with Terrorism

Considering the youth of ICE as an agency, as well the timing of its inception, ICE is undoubtedly a component of the "war on terror." Created by the Bush administration, emphasized and vastly expanded by the Obama administration, and now mushrooming under the Trump administration, we must recognize that ICE is part of a much larger conglomerate. While it is ICE that is attracting much attention, it is not just ICE that we should call into question. Its purpose is to refuse all "aliens" who are "infesting" the U.S., but it is simply a bullet in the gun.

We must see this segment of the government as piece of their new war against the people of the world. The wars that the U.S. have escalated abroad, causing mass refugee migration crises in Central America, the Middle East, and Africa, are primarily responsible for such successions. With the rise of climate change as well, we will soon have a world unstable to support current and expected living standards.

Clearly then, ICE's purpose is to fend off migrants and refugees developed from the wars promoted by the US's other militaristic forces. Last year, people were worried about Syrian refugees flooding the states. Today, the focus is back on the Mexican border. In the future, expect further crises in Africa. HSI operates abroad, they are the international eyes for the ERO. Working with both foreign and domestic law agencies, ICE has created in less than two decades a global force of supervision and detention.

This analysis goes along with the U.S. Commission on National Security which stated , "In the new era, sharp distinctions between `foreign' and `domestic' no longer apply." Accordingly, former President Barack Obama noted , "there is no distinction between homeland and national security". The importance here lies in the conundrum considering that U.S. foreign policy initiatives have been disastrous, for the soldiers sent abroad, for the world in general, and for democracy as a whole. The same values the U.S. government claims to represent in every war it initiates are those which it refuses to allow develop without its supervision, and what ICE and the quotes above illustrate is that the leaders of our country are very aware of their dwindling control over the masses, and specifically who the masses are that they must control. But this conundrum posed appears common knowledge, thus we begin to ponder why we keep making the same mistakes?

Simply put: the U.S. is the producer of terror. It is the producer of terror abroad and thus the engineer of the very terrorism it aims to fight. This is not the result of stupidity. This is its purpose. Such social stratification is ideal for the ruling class. If they can decimate countries abroad, they can go in and offer their assistance. This assistance of course comes with loans. Those loans of course come with interest. Yes, the U.S. is the most indebted nation, but it also makes its money by indebting other nations! These are not mistakes, they're markets.

The terrorism that the U.S. has promoted in the overthrow of governments in Mexico, Guatemala, Chile, Argentina, Nicaragua, Haití, Greece, Syria, Iran, Iraq, and so on, is on a scale never seen in history. This is what the U.S., as the main facilitator of the global capitalist system, strives for. The U.S. just passed a $716 billion defense budget. The U.S. allowed the Pentagon to misplace $21 trillion in 17 years. Across the world, the U.S. has promoted right-wing, ultra-conservative, authoritarian regimes, reaping the benefits while the workers of these countries are murdered and forced to live at starvation wages. Even today, the U.S. operates with approximately 75% of the world's dictatorships. Our policy is not democracy, it is detention. Thus, the same military that caused many to flee their homelands is now being asked to detain them at home.

A quick historical contextualization of the "Mexican immigrant crisis" is needed. The U.S. under President James K. Polk went to war with Mexico over territory and conquered 525,000 acres of land in 1848. Afterwards, the Native Mexicans, now Americans, were exterminated by a California state-sponsored genocide that massacred over 80% of their population. Come 1914, the U.S. intervened after the Mexican Revolution, toppling the government in order to protect its imperial interests in Mexico's oil, mines, and railroads, which were predominantly owned by USAmericans. In 1938, after discussions of reparations which were not paid to Mexico after the U.S. invasion, Mexico decided it would nationalize its oil reserves. Consequently, President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided not to imperialistically intervene, though during the great depression the U.S. did expel between 400,000-2,000,000 Mexicans from the U.S. (60% of who were birthright citizens). In 1982, during the world oil crisis, the nearly 150% drop in oil's worth meant that Mexico's foreign debt more than doubled . This foreign debt was owed to the U.S.-sponsored World Bank. And after NAFTA passed in 1994, Mexico's government became so reliant on the U.S. that now over 88% of its exports go directly to its neighbor, the U.S.

NAFTA has made it more difficult for Mexican workers to organize, thus wages have plummeted and corruption has run wild in the country. This is perfect for the neocolonial empire as it creates an austere society, with money coming from the top to colonialists, who then protect those giving them money if threatened. By destabilizing Mexico, they allow the society to fight itself at the bottom, while the corrupted officials remain floating above the general public.

What CIA-trained forces did during Operation Condor in Central America has passed. The Japanese internment camps during World War II were temporary. But what they have being built now, these ICE detention facilities, they are here to stay. They are here to stay unless we stand up and fight back against such terror. We cannot become desensitized to these detention facilities, as we have with the creation of a military industrial complex, the prison industrial complex, and the slaying of innocent young black men. We must fight.


Trump's Solution: A Crumb to the Beggars

President Trump recently signed an Executive Order that will no longer allow families to be separated unless criminal laws say otherwise. For this, I have seen liberal praise. We must reject such gains as "wins". Such an order goes along with another liberal argument I've seen that separating families in the detention facilities is morally wrong. Yes, indeed it is. But so is the blanket detention of non-violent immigrants. So is the containment, isolation, entrapment, and debilitation of so-called aliens. The liberal "resistance" seemingly wants us to settle for allowing them to be in cages so long as they are together in these cages.

What this Executive Order does not do is mend the separation that has already taken place. Moreover, it seeks to indefinitely detain these families-- calling for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to file a request in court to change the settlement in Flores v Reno. What's more, it calls for families to be detained at military facilities, as well. The same military that has brutalized the world, trained torturers, tortured others themselves, and killed on mass scale, is now being called upon to "care for" detained immigrants. This is a scary revelation. The average citizen cannot just walk on to military facility grounds. We cannot walk into jails for inspection, let alone military facilities. What they hid before, they will hide again.

Such detainment facilities are beyond just immoral, they are abhorrent. They are heinously inhumane and such institutions should not exist anywhere. There are borders today, yes. There are laws and rules, and there are important procedures in place to protect our citizens from potential terrorists. This, however, does not require the detention and deportation of all "illegal" families. In fact, prior to 2012, such a notion was not only unheard of, it was structurally impractical.


Our Solution: A Call to Action

The protest-blockade against the ICE facility in Portland, Oregon is unprecedented. Here, protesters have effectively shut down and ICE detention facility by sheer will of the human body. They blockaded the garages so that ICE vehicles could not exit. For a while, ICE employees even could not exit the facility. Eventually police were called in to escort them out of the building.

Such direct action should set as a reminder that we the people have the power. In numbers, when organized, we have the potential to shut down each facility in the U.S. Approximately 1,000 citizens surrounded the building, the garage, and even ICE employee's cars (provoking the police to arrest one demonstrator) in Portland. These protestors were so effective that the ICE center was actually shut down indefinitely, due to security concerns!

These protests were against Trump's separating of families. What is important is not allowing this Executive Order to calm the fire. We must fight ICE at every step, we must melt ICE. Starting with preventative care, we can help our immigrant communities know their rights by circulating literature on how to defend from ICE raids. It is also important that we verify when ICE is in the neighborhood and document it. We owe gratitude to Sam Lavigne, who doxxed the Linkedin profiles of the majority of people working as ICE agents. We now we know who our enemy is. We have the locations of ICE detention facilities (via ICE's own website), we know where they are stationed. What happened in Portland can just as easily happen in any US city!

We must take a stand. Times are ripe, people are awakened to the monstrosities of this administration because it is Trump, and because it is Trump it is profitable for the media to "uncover." The capitalists only think of money, not the substance. And this substance is accidentally revolutionizing our country. Come an economic collapse, which we are due for as it's been 10 years since the 2008 recession, the honest Left should and will be ready. We must begin organizing and fighting now, and it starts against ICE.


C. S. Ryan is an activist and member of the Capital District Socialist Party of New York.