On Wednesday, the Intercept declared that calls for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be dissolved are becoming "more mainstream." It points out that at least 15 Democratic congressional candidates—Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez among them—have platforms that call for de-funding or getting rid of the 15-year-old agency altogether. Now, nearly 20 ICE agents have warmed to a version of the idea. In a jargony four-page letter sent to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, some 19 ICE investigators propose that ICE be done away with, and that two distinct entities emerge. The letter explains ICE is made up of two distinct components: Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); those signing the letter work in the latter section.
The letter outlines "numerous reasons" why turning those into two standalone agencies would make sense, among them the low approval ratings that have surfaced in employee surveys. But their larger point is that their work is polluted by that of ERO, which detains and deports undocumented immigrants, while HSI has an "extraordinary global reach" and focuses on "transnational criminal organizations that facilitate cross border crimes" like drug smuggling and human trafficking. They say there is misunderstanding about what HSI does, and that the "political nature" of what ERO does has led local law enforcement in some cases to refuse to work with HSI under the misguided idea that it is involved in the "politics of civil immigration"; others partner so long as "ICE" isn't referenced in any public-facing materials. A senior ICE official tells the New York Times some of the letter's points "merit some discussion." (Read more Immigration and Customs Enforcement stories.)