In the growing furor over the Donald Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their families, several Democrats and immigrant rights advocates have called for a radical solution–break up the agency responsible for carrying that policy out, Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Now that effort has gained support from a surprising quarter–ICE’s own agents.
While ICE is best known for rounding up illegal immigrants, that’s not its only responsibility. ICE is actually divided into two divisions. The division best known to the public, Enforcement and Removal Operations, handles the arrest, detention and deportation of immigrants.
The other division, Homeland Security Investigations, or HSI, is responsible for investigating a number of crimes that cross international borders, such as human trafficking, drug smuggling, child exploitation, and money laundering. It has been responsible for some of the highest-profile international criminal investigations of the new millennium, with its biggest scalp being Silk Road.
Recently, a number of HSI agents have felt chagrin at the increased emphasis ICE has placed on deportations. That chagrin became public on Wednesday, when the Texas Observer learned that 19 HSI special agents in charge from around the country wrote Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and asked her to separate ICE into two separate agencies–one agency for criminal investigations, and another to handle immigration enforcement.
Read the letter here. The signers claim that ICE’s increased emphasis on deportations has made it difficult for HSI agents to do their jobs.
“HSI’s investigations have been perceived as targeting undocumented aliens, instead of the transnational criminal organizations that facilitate cross border crimes impacting our communities and national security. Furthermore, the perception of investigative independence is unnecessarily impacted by the political nature of civil immigration enforcement. Many jurisdictions continue to refuse to work with HSI because of a perceived linkage to the politics of civil immigration.”
The SACs contend that, for all intents and purposes, ICE isn’t really a single agency, but two agencies within one–and both of which have divergent missions. HSI is largely the successor of the old investigation division of the United States Customs Service. That division merged with the old Immigration and Naturalization Service’s investigation and detention arms after 9-11 to form ICE.
The SACs noted that every other federal law enforcement agency has “just one primary mission.” It also drew a contrast with the various agencies under the Department of Justice umbrella, none of whom are partnered with “another disparate entity.”
Former ICE deputy director Alonzo Peña is of a similar mind. He told the Texas Observer that HSI is supposed to be focused on bringing down “these big cartels that are focused on smuggling guns, drugs, money.” However, with the White House’s attacks on immigrants, Peña believes HSI has been thrown “entirely off mission.” He fears that in the process, it is on the verge of becoming “a political pawn of the administration.”
Around the same time this letter came to light, NRATV’s Grant Stinchfield posted one of his typical unhinged rants–this one targeting Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who upended House Democratic Caucus chairman Joseph Crowley in the Democratic primary for his Queens/Bronx district. Watch here.
Stinchfield slammed Ocasio-Cortez, a self-described socialist, for espousing “every overreaching, stifling piece of policy you can imagine”–including abolishing ICE.
So by Stinchfield’s logic, the agents who signed this letter to Nielsen are all a bunch of radical socialists. Is Stinchfield willing to say that to their faces?
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