I’m sure that over the last few days, weeks, and months, the great majority of you have seen an ever growing number of Democrats calling for the abolishing of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, known as ICE. The New York Times gives a good overview of ICE’s history and functions. ICE performs many vital governmental functions that are ultimately good for the country. The trouble is not ICE, but President Trump. ICE is merely enforcing administration policies, and calling for it to be abolished is a distraction from this key distinction. Is an assault to be blamed on the knife or the one wielding it? Calls to abolish ICE are like going for the knife while the assailant gets away.
Donald Trump has long been openly hostile to the mere idea of immigration since well before his election. He has made a vast number of racist remarks and has consistently backed and implemented harsh anti-immigration policies, such as the “zero-tolerance” policy which led to the family separations. Donald Trump does not believe in the United States as the “New Colossus,” a core, foundational tenant of American identity mind you. America is the Land of Immigrants, the “Mother of Exiles.” Everyone in this country, excluding American Indians, is a descendant of immigrants. And yet Donald Trump wants you to believe that immigrants are harmful to this country.
What can I do to convince you that this is a flawed view? Show you that illegal immigration is at its lowest rate in decades? That the great majority of research suggests that immigrants, both legal and illegal, commit crimes at a lower rate than the general population? Or can I show you the near futility in accurately estimating the costs of immigrants, and that, once their children are included (according to a study by the National Academy of Sciences), illegal immigrants are a net fiscal and economic gain to the United States?
Calls to abolish ICE shift the focus away from President Trump’s open hostility to a key tenant of American identity, and towards eliminating a vital government agency. If ICE were to be abolished, it would need a replacement with the same functions. We do need to track who enters this country. We do need an agency to arrest and deport those who enter the country illegally with criminal intent. We also need to restrain any President from using the agency to harass all immigrants. Calls to “abolish ICE,” however, present the Democrats as fanatics who are out of touch with what problems Americans actually face. Abolishing ICE will not solve our current problems with immigration, nor with education, or inequality, or political dysfunction.
If the Democratic Party wants to win the elections in November, they need to move from bumper sticker slogans to an actual concrete message. What are their plans for taxation and lasting immigration reform? How do they plan to address Congressional deadlock? What will they do about the massive, and alarming, growth in the power of the executive branch in recent years (especially under Presidents Obama and Trump)? The Republican Party, on the other hand, is not in too much better shape. They have a clearer message and more defined goals and plans, but still have much to do to offer a vision of America other than “not what the Democrats’ want.” Both parties are so much more focused on opposing the other than they are on really addressing our nation’s issues. “Abolish ICE” is just the latest symptom of this trend.