When Mirian, a 29-year-old mother from Honduras, arrived at the U.S. border with her young child seeking asylum due to violence in her home country, officials from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement separated them. Mirian presented her documentation, but ICE still forced her to watch as a government car drove away with her crying son.
“I did not even have a chance to try to comfort my son, because the officers slammed the door shut as soon as he was in his seat,” Mirian said in a court document filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.
According to data from the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which takes custody of immigrant children from border agents, as of April, more than 700 children had been separated from their parents since October. More than 100 of these children were under 4 years old.
ICE, the federal law enforcement agency under the Department of Homeland Security that enforces federal immigration law, has emerged as one of the foremost instruments of state terror in the era of President Donald Trump.
Because ICE primarily enforces immigration law inside the country rather than at the border, many of its victims are people who have lived here for years, having established themselves professionally, raised a family and contributed to their community.
As it becomes clearer that ICE is anti-family, anti-immigrant and a human rights abuser, the need to abolish it grows.
What was once considered a radical position is now being embraced by many Democratic congressional candidates.
Deb Haaland is one such congressional candidate, running in New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District. She won her primary last Tuesday, ensuring that at least one candidate that advocates abolishing ICE will be on a ballot during the November midterms.
Skeptics may suppose this agency is a pillar of American law enforcement and that without it, chaos would ensue. But ICE is a product of the Bush administration and part of a package of authoritarian post-9/11 policies Congress approved and a panicked American people accepted as necessary to keep us safe. This is hardly an association worth defending.
To U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, separating children from their parents is just a way to deter illegal immigration. And while the Trump administration has committed egregious violations of due process and ramped up a regime of detention and deportation, the Barack Obama administration shouldn’t be let off the hook.
An ACLU report released last month detailed verbal, physical and sexual abuse of immigrant children at the hands of U.S. officials from 2009 to 2014 when Obama occupied the White House. ICE has always been an issue, even if it took Trump to turn it into a household name. Trump’s crackdown on immigrants and refugees highlights the need for a fundamental change in immigration policy.
Rather than an extreme position of the far-left, all Americans should support keeping families together. Such a gross violation of human rights is incompatible with the free society we should fight for in America. Conservatives, especially religious conservatives, and including Latter-day Saints, can find common cause with organizations like the Democratic Socialists of America in supporting policies that keep families together and treat peaceful immigrants with the human dignity they deserve.
We cannot overlook the struggle of millions of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers, who only seek a better life in this country.