from the annul-this-arranged-marriage-please dept
The Department of Homeland Security is trying to distance itself from its most toxic asset, the Washington Post reports:
Federal agents from Homeland Security Investigations say they have been kicked out of joint drug operations, shunned by local police departments and heckled at campus career fairs. Their parent agency, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, carries a stigma that is undermining their investigative work across the country, the agents said in an internal report.
The agents say they face a backlash in liberal “sanctuary” jurisdictions where authorities strictly limit contact with ICE but also in some Republican-led states where politicians are vocal in their support for the agency. And the toll on HSI agents is “getting worse,” according to the report that was prepared by a working group of agents formed by HSI to consider changes to the agency’s place within the Department of Homeland Security.
ICE has always been controversial. Under President Trump, the agency was unleashed. It willingly embraced its awfulness, deploying everything from fake warrants to fake colleges in its war on foreign residents and would-be immigrants, many of whom were here legally. It courted controversial tech companies to expand its surveillance arsenal and made it clear it was interested in ejecting as many foreign people as possible, rather than the “worst of the worst” Trump claimed his immigration policies targeted.
But now it’s clear that working with ICE means not actually getting any work done. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents have informed the DHS Secretary that partnering with ICE has all sorts of negative side effects. Agents are complaining about threats to their personal safety, crime victims being unwilling to engage with investigators due to ICE presence, and harming relationships with local law enforcement. ICE is a drain on resources due to its horrendous reputation. Here’s how the HSI agents put it in their letter to DHS officials:
“HSI’s affiliation with ICE significantly impedes investigations and HSI’s ability to fulfill its mission.”
Unfortunately, it appears this is unlikely to result in HSI decoupling from ICE. It would take an act of Congress to do so, and support for this sort of division is far from universal. The other solution is just as unlikely to happen: the rehabilitation of ICE’s image.
ICE has done a lot of damage to its reputation due to its willingness to become the embodiment of xenophobic presidential directives and policies. It could rein itself in, but any rehabilitation could easily be undone by the next president to take office. Most people never truly believed someone like Trump could ever be elected, but millions of Americans proved us wrong in 2016. All bets are off.
ICE’s response to the assertions in this letter is less than helpful. The agency, through a spokesperson, says nothing but uses a lot of words to deliver its nonexistent message:
In a statement, ICE spokeswoman Paige Hughes said the agency “relies on close working relationships with its state, local, and international partners,” but she did not elaborate on the details of the report. She added: “ICE refrains from discussing deliberations publicly with its partners to maintain operational security and in recognition of the sensitive nature of many of our activities.”
Congress may not be willing to bless a HSI-ICE divorce. But it’s clear from this letter that federal agencies forced to partner with ICE are being held back by ICE’s negative reputation. And ICE can’t blame anyone else for being so toxic its federal partners want nothing to do with it. It may have received questionable directives from the former president, but it was under no obligation to carry these out with as much enthusiasm and zeal as it did.
Plenty of federal agencies are capable of barely meeting the minimal requirements of Congressional and presidential mandates. ICE could have slow-walked its “toss out the brown people” directives until power changed hands. Instead, it showed itself to be an enthusiastic participant in bigoted policies, making it clear the 2016 regime change had simply allowed it to be the thuggish enforcer of immigration law it had always wanted to be.