Amid the storm over immigrant children being separated from their families, a groundswell of support has emerged for the notion of abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which has been at the center of the controversial move by the Trump administration.
Many high profile Democrats have called to eliminate the agency entirely.
Indian American social activist Hemanth Gundavaram, co-director of the Immigrant Justice Clinic at Northeastern University in Boston, Mass., has been a fierce advocate of abolishing the agency. “The cost of ICE far outweighs the threat from immigrants, he told USA Today.
ICE has become a tool for President Donald Trump to “implement his racist and xenophobic” immigration policies, said Gundavaram. The agency was established in 2003, in the post 9/11 era, which sought to take a front-line approach to combatting terrorism.
Immigration enforcement has intensified on all fronts since Trump took office as president, noted the Immigrant Justice Clinic in a report issued last March. One aspect of this rise in enforcement is a new practice of arresting immigrants at state courthouses. “ICE has dramatically increased its activity in and around courthouses across the country over the past year, apprehending noncitizens who are appearing in court for a range of proceedings unrelated to their immigration status,” noted the organization in its report.
“Our immigration system should not exist to focus solely on national security and terrorism,” Gundavaram said. “ICE represents the idea that all immigration is dangerous and a threat to our security.”
"We existed as a country for hundreds of years before ICE came along 15 years ago," Gundavaram told Tucker Carlson’s Fox News, adding that ICE has "gotten too big."
He said ICE is supposed to focus on national security and terrorism and argued with Carlson over whether too many ICE arrests are for unserious crimes.
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., has also entered the maelstrom, but has clarified she does not support abolishing ICE.
“I think there’s no question that we’ve got to critically reexamine ICE and its role and the way that it is being administered and the work it is doing,” she told MSNBC at the end of June. “And we need to probably think about starting from scratch because there is a lot that is wrong with the way that it’s conducting itself, and we need to deal with that.”
But a week later, Harris’s office clarified the Indian American senator’s stance, stating said that rather than calling to abolish ICE, the senator is weighing “a complete overhaul of the agency, mission, culture, operations,” as reported by BuzzFeed News. Harris has called for cutting the agency’s funding and stopping the expansion of ICE facilities.
Vice President Mike Pence has also weighed in on the debate, calling ICE agents “heroes.”
“We are with you 100 percent,” Pence said during a visit to ICE headquarters July 6. “We will always stand proudly with our brave heroes of Ice and the Border Patrol.”
"Under President Trump, we will never abolish ICE,” said Pence.