Last week, more than 200 North Carolina residents were arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This was in reaction to the recent election of sheriffs in Mecklenburg, Wake and Durham counties, who, as a part of their campaign platforms, rejected cooperation with ICE. As a result, the federal agency took it upon itself to descend on the area and tear people away from their families, homes and communities.
At a press conference on these raids, ICE Atlanta Field Office director Sean Gallagher stated, “If they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, my officers will take an enforcement action.”
Indeed, this was the only “crime” that ICE sought to prosecute.
Let us take a moment to dismiss the tired, neo-Know-Nothing nativist arguments that ICE’s defenders often trot out: No, undocumented immigrants are not more likely to commit crimes than citizens. And, if you’re looking to blame someone for the opioid epidemic, how about corporations like Insys Therapeutics Inc.? Its employees made a music video featuring a live-action, anthropomorphic bottle of fentanyl dancing to a parody of an A$AP Rocky song intended to motivate sales representatives to convince doctors to prescribe their product. Justifying the actions of ICE fundamentally requires that one believes that immigrants are less deserving of fundamental rights than other people, a vision of the world that places human worth on a hierarchy determined by where a person was born.
ICE is not some integral part of the country’s common defense. It was founded as a part of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, carried on a wave of paranoia in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. The Bush administration used it as an opportunity to vastly expand the scope of the national security state, at the expense of civil liberties and the right to privacy.