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Editorial: Blame Trump, Not ICE

Published: 7/18/2018 10:16:04 PM
Modified: 7/18/2018 10:16:13 PM

Democrats are playing into President Donald Trump’s hands by their calls to abolish ICE.

Demanding the elimination of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency may feel good. But it misses this key point: ICE is merely enforcing Trump policies that regard every immigrant as a security threat.

And, oh, by the way, ICE doesn’t just enforce immigration. Americans should recognize that ICE is one of the primary federal agencies responsible for combating human trafficking, which is a serious issue. ICE also is charged with slowing the intellectual property theft that costs the tech industry billions every year.

The real problem is Trump and the bully he picked to head up ICE.

The protests against the president’s zero tolerance policy should continue. But the focus needs to shift. It’s a simple matter of power. Protesters must concentrate their efforts on flipping the House and Senate in November and then electing a president in 2020 who will put ICE’s priorities in order.

Trump and Republicans see the current immigration debate as a winning political issue. The GOP leadership made that clear last week when they vowed to bring Democratic legislation to abolish ICE to the House floor for a vote. U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., points out that Republicans see it as a way to foster further division in the country and claim that Democrats are for open borders.

But it isn’t Democrats who have separated more than 2,000 children from their families. Nor is it Democrats who abandoned the Dreamers, arguing that the Dream Act’s young recipients were taking jobs from citizens.

The calls to abolish ICE mushroomed in recent weeks in the wake of the appalling separation of families at the United States-Mexico border. They really caught fire after liberal challenger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ran on the issue and upset New York Rep. Joe Crowley in a New York primary.

Last week, Reps. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash. and Adriano Espaillat, D-N.Y., introduced their legislation to terminate ICE and transfer its functions to other agencies. They now say they’ll vote against their own legislation if House Speaker Paul Ryan calls for a floor vote.

ICE is a relatively new agency, established in 2003 after the 9/11 attacks. Under the Obama administration, ICE’s primary focus was removing undocumented immigrants who were guilty of serious crimes. But Trump earlier this year changed that approach, calling for massive raids of thousands of undocumented immigrants, regardless of whether they had a criminal history.

ICE doesn’t patrol the U.S. borders. That job goes to Customs and Border Protection. But ICE is responsible for housing adult detainees, and the Trump administration should have a system in place to reunite parents and their children in a timely fashion.

Some immigrants have serious criminal histories and need to be deported. But most immigrants are in this country because the United States depends on them to provide critical labor. Abolishing ICE won’t prevent Trump from persisting in his senseless approach to immigration. That requires either a new president or a Congress that will stand up for a more sensible approach to immigration issues.

The San Jose Mercury

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