The debate over the role of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is heating up. The “Abolish Ice” movement, started as a battle cry of progressive activists, has now reached the main stage of our political theater.
This seemingly simple demand has raised several questions. Here is what you should know to stay informed on this controversial topic.
What is ICE?
Established 2003 in response to the September 11 terror attacks, ICE was created to enforce federal laws related to border control, customs and immigration. Part of the Department of Homeland Security, the agency has 20,000 employees, 400 offices and an annual budget of $6 billion.
ICE is also responsible for detaining and deporting undocumented immigrants. Due to recent tactics, critics have deemed it a de-facto deportation force and demanded that the agency be dissolved.
“Zero tolerance” policy backlash
“Abolish ICE” began popping up during protests over the Trump administration’s ”zero tolerance” immigration policy of separating families at the U.S.-Mexico border. What started with progressive activists has grown into a movement that has hit the mainstream.
Democratic lawmakers have started to advocate for reexamining the agency, including Senators Bernie Sanders and Kirsten Gillibrand. A group of House Democrats recently introduced legislation that would disband ICE and reform immigration enforcement, but it has little chance of passing.
No easy fix in sight
There’s one big question facing those who want to “Abolish ICE”: What is the alternative? Eliminating a large federal agency would not be quick or easy. Would enforcement revert to the policies in place before 2003? It is clear there is some work to do in order to change this slogan into actual policy.