Friday, July 20, 2018
Billy Long: ICE isn't the enemy
“Abolish ICE, abolish ICE, abolish ICE!” That seems to be the rallying cry of activists, elected officials and candidates for office these days. They seriously want to abolish the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the law enforcement agency in charge of enforcing our federal laws regarding border control, customs, trade and immigration. These cheerleaders don’t seem to appreciate why ICE was created in the first place. Although it might be the flavor of the month to voice such opinions, I would rather use this space to reflect on all of ICE’s accomplishments and what would be lost if it was in fact abolished.
Post 9/11, Congress passed the Homeland Security Act, which established the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The three primary goals of DHS are: prevent terrorist attacks on American soil, reduce America’s vulnerability to terrorism and minimize the damage from potential attacks and natural disasters. There are numerous agencies under DHS, including ICE. Soon after ICE began its operations in 2003, the U.S. quickly saw its benefits. ICE arrested 1,900 illegal aliens as well as captured several criminal aliens on the agency’s “Most Wanted” list.
Over the years, ICE has only continued its success. In fiscal year (FY) 2017, there were more than 140,000 administrative arrests, which is when an alien is arrested for violating immigration laws. Ninety-two percent of the arrests were individuals with a criminal conviction or pending criminal charge and 4,818 were gang arrests. Of the gang arrests, 776 of them were members of MS-13, which is an 83 percent increase from FY 2016.
Along with ICE’s efforts to combat gang violence, it is also one of the leading law enforcement agencies fighting human trafficking. Over the past eight years, ICE Homeland Security Investigations has arrested more than 7,000 individuals for human trafficking related offenses. In FY 2017, ICE rescued 518 human trafficking victims and saved or identified nearly 1,000 child exploitation victims. In addition to its work on the ground, ICE also works to prevent online child sexual exploitation through the Human Exploitation Rescue Operation Child-Rescue Corps program.
But ICE’s efforts don’t stop there. Combating drug related violence and seizures is another top priority for the law enforcement agency. In FY 2017, ICE seized more than 980,000 pounds of narcotics leading to 11,691 arrests. Combatting this crisis required 620,000 hours of work by teams within ICE. And that was just one year’s worth of work.
On July 18, the House of Representatives passed H. Res. 990, which is a piece of legislation that voices support for ICE and its mission while denouncing those who call to get rid of it. The men and women that make up this law enforcement agency work hard each day to make sure our country is safe. I ask my colleagues on the opposite side of the aisle to think long and hard about the implications abolishing ICE would have on our country and law enforcement agencies.