In an article published today (July 24) on The New Yorker’s website, an agent who has been with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) since former President Bill Clinton was in office breaks down how the agency’s approach to interacting with immigrants has changed under the Trump Administration. The entire article, penned by writer Jonathan Blitzer, is worth a close read, but the following section—which explores the agency’s stance on young immigrants—warrants special attention:
The agent’s decision to allow me to write about our conversations came after learning that ICE was making a push, beginning this week, to arrest young undocumented immigrants who were part of a large wave of unaccompanied minors who crossed the border in recent years and who, until now, had been allowed to live in the U.S. Rather than detaining these young people, the government had placed them in the care of families around the country. Most of them are trying to lead new lives as American transplants, going to school and working. ICE now plans to pursue those who have turned eighteen since crossing the border, and who, as a result, qualify for detention as legal adults. “I don’t see the point in it,” the agent said. “The plan is to take them back into custody, and then figure it out. I don’t understand it. We’re doing it because we can, and it bothers the hell out of me.”
The agent went on, “The whole idea is targeting kids. I know that technically they meet the legal definition of being adults. Fine. But if they were my kids traveling in a foreign country, I wouldn’t be OK with this. We’re not doing what we tell people we do. If you look next month, or at the end of this month, at the people in custody, it’s people who’ve been here for years. They’re supposed to be in high school.”
The agent was especially concerned about a new policy that allows ICE to investigate cases of immigrants who may have paid smugglers to bring their children or relatives into the country. ICE considers these family members guilty of placing children “directly in harm’s way,” as one spokeswoman recently put it, and the agency will hold them “accountable for their role in these conspiracies.” According to ICE, these measures will help combat “a constant humanitarian threat,” but the agent said that rationale was just a pretext to increase arrests and eventually deport more people. “We seem to be targeting the most vulnerable people, not the worst.” The agent also believes that the policy will make it harder for the government to handle unaccompanied children who show up at the border. “You’re going to have kids stuck in detention because parents are too scared of being prosecuted to want to pick them up!” the agent said.
Read “A Veteran ICE Agent, Disillusioned With the Trump Era, Speaks Out” here.