Don’t Abolish ICE, Reform It.

Andrei Nikitovic

Under the Obama administration, ICE increased its role in deporting undocumented immigrants who committed crimes. President Trump has changed that policy by allowing the deportation of anyone who is undocumented in the United States. Due to this significant change in ICE’s objective, there have been increasing calls to abolish the agency. Instead of taking this drastic action,  the US should reform ICE to fulfill its original role: stopping drugs and crime from coming into the United States via illegal immigration. It is vital to our national security that we have an agency dedicated to deporting immigrants convicted of crimes. This task is still very relevant, as there are currently 180,000 undocumented immigrants in the United States with criminal records.

Much of the criticism surrounding ICE is the notion that they are aiming to deport all undocumented immigrants, regardless of their integration into local communities. These claims are somewhat true under the Trump administration, as one of Trump’s goals has been to lower the burden of undocumented immigration to the US, estimated in 1995 to be from $2-19 billion a year. That number is surely higher now with even more undocumented immigrants in the country. Although the argument for the deportation of many undocumented immigrants – one million of which have standing deportation orders – is valid, ICE should not conduct mass raids, because many of these individuals entered the United States for a better life or for asylum. 

I personally am connected to many undocumented immigrants within the Serbian community who came to the United States for a better life, a few of whom I consider family. Although I would never want them deported, along with other law-abiding undocumented immigrants, we as Americans must realize there is still a need to enforce immigration laws. Every country has a right to protect its borders. In enforcing immigration laws, we should find and deport undocumented immigrants who are convicted criminals, of which there are 180,000. 

A primary reason for the need to enforce immigration laws is the drugs coming in through the southern border, 90% of which come through legal ports of entry, so just trusting the people coming in legally is not sufficient to enforce drug laws. Once drugs come into the United States, it should be the job of ICE to track down the people responsible. There is also an often overlooked issue involving our southern border, and that is human trafficking. Since 2007, there have been over 34,000 sex trafficking cases reported in the U.S. Human sex trafficking is a billion-dollar industry that Mexican and Central American cartels control. If ICE were to be reformed, specifically to stop the importation of crime, rather than deporting otherwise law-abiding immigrants, the agency’s work could be done on a much more efficient scale.

The main reason there is a lot of undocumented immigration from the southern border is because they are escaping wars and gang violence in their home countries. There were only 955 refugees from Central America admitted into the U.S. in 2018, while there were 21,450 others granted refugee status from different regions around the world. The maximum amount of refugees from Central America in 2018 was 1,500.  Only about 50% of that quota has been met by the Trump administration. This graph reflects the prior years:

If the current administration wants to lower the number of undocumented immigrants coming in from the southern border each year, it should change its strategy.  Instead of putting pressure on ICE to deport undocumented immigrants–an agency whose resources could be directed elsewhere–the current administration should admit more legal refugees and asylum seekers from Central America. The President should aim to admit and help these people, as their claims are legitimate, and ICE would not have any need to deport them, because they would come in through the legal process. 

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