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ICE officials during operations of detention and arrest of immigrants in the State of California.
ICE officials during operations of detention and arrest of immigrants in the State of California.

Should we trust ICE?

The Office of Immigration and Customs (ICE) has come to the fore as the main federal border protection agency, but its incursions into US territory seem to be…

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After California became the center of resistance against the anti-immigrant measures of the Trump Administration - and considering the number of deportations inside the country has escalated considerably - the actions of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has come to the fore in terms of assaults on the immigrant community.

We had explained before that during the first year of this government, ICE has arrested more immigrants without criminal charges and in territories far from the border than during the government of Barack Obama, even when the number of deportations still remains lower.

These strategies have exchanged deportation for harassment and instigation of fear, measures that could potentially be more useful in reducing the number of immigrants crossing the border.

Rhetoric of fear

According to Vox, ICE director Tom Homan began a scare campaign last year stating: "If you entered this country illegally, you should be looking over your shoulder and you should be worried." The effects of his new measures have been registered by research centers at George Washington University and the UCLA Civil Rights Project, which have determined that levels of stress and anxiety afflict the immigrant community "without distinction of legal status," as Vox continues.

Coupled with this, the massive raids, family separations and constant threats to the Sanctuary Cities form an excessively aggressive arsenal against the Latin American and color communities in general, and rhetoric is its preferred weapon in the forefront.

ICE, the president's parrot

But, what happens when ICE’s data and figures turn out to be, shall we say, inflated? What happens when a federal agency joins the exacerbated and megalomaniac discourse of a chieftain entrenched in the White House?

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, this is more than likely.

Last Monday, an important spokesman at ICE made public his resignation arguing that "he couldn’t continue to do his job after Trump administration officials made false public statements" about a key aspect in the recent operation of mass raids carried out in Northern California.

James Schwab told the Chronicle his frustration over "the repeated statements of officials, including U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, that roughly 800 undocumented immigrants escaped arrest because of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s Feb. 24 warning to the public about the four-day operation.”

According to Schwab, the figures would be much smaller, but, with his intention to correct the agency, he was ordered to follow the speech to the letter.

"I quit because I didn’t want to perpetuate misleading facts,” said the former spokesman. "I asked them to change the information. I told them that the information was wrong, they asked me to deflect, and I didn’t agree with that."

The operation called "Keep Safe" began on February 25 in the form of a massive raid on neighborhoods and communities that ended up in the arrest of 232 undocumented immigrants. On February 27, and as KTVU remembers, Schwab had to issue a statement from the ICE director, Thomas D. Homan, in which he stated that, “Thanks to the dedicated and professional work of ICE deportation officers, we were able to remove many public safety threats from the streets of the Bay Area during the past few days. However, 864 criminal aliens and public safety threats remain at large in the community, and I have to believe that some of them were able to elude us thanks to the mayor’s irresponsible decision.” 

Days later, Attorney General Jeff Sessions repeated the speech in Sacramento arguing his decision to sue the entire state of California, and the next morning, the president "rounded off" the number to "about 1,000 people" during his rally in Pennsylvania.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

For Sean McElwee (The Nation), "ICE has become a genuine threat to democracy, and it is destroying thousands of lives." While the agency was created in 2003 as a "direct product of the post-September 11 panic culture," as McElwee continues, its engagement with the Department of Homeland Security has placed the spotlight on immigrant and color communities, misinterpreting "security" as "free pass ", adopting positions that the columnist calls a "disturbing indicator of authoritarianism".

The real lie

Behind all, what really worries is not so much the manipulation of figures, the political proselytism and the sum of aggressive measures, but the machinery that encompasses them.

As McElwee says, "it's time to rein in the greatest threat we face: an unaccountable strike force executing a campaign of ethnic cleansing."

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