The US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the largest branch within the Department of Homeland Security and, in addition, is responsible for the greatest number of deportations. Considering some of the literature our class has read this semester, it has become clear that ICE, whose website frames its goals as those of protecting our families, our borders, and the nation’s safety, is responsible for breaking apart thousands of families via the deportation of illegal immigrants.
Of the 396,906 immigrants deported last year (2011), 180,208 of them were deported for non-criminal reasons, which is nearly half of all deportations (ice.gov 2012).
Despite this large number of non-criminal deportees, ICE represents itself as an organization that “promote[s] homeland security and public safety” (ice.gov). The ICE homepage has a continuously rotating news ticker, which is constantly updating with news releases regarding the detention and deportation of criminal illegal immigrants. One of the headlines reads “HSI, local law enforcement joint operation nets 6 arrests, seizure of illegal weapons, drugs” (ice.gov 2012), offering a link to a news release describing various arrests and seizures. For example, a successful raid is described in which “task force officers seized five additional .40 caliber magazines; 58 rounds of 9 caliber ammunition; an AR15 rifle; 427 rounds of 2.23 caliber ammunition; a 9 caliber, Sig Sauer model P229 pistol; a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver; 52 rounds of 9 caliber ammunition; three .40 caliber and two 9 caliber magazines; and 910 capsules of crack cocaine” (ice.gov2012). Another article reads, “ICE arrests 80 criminal aliens in Georgia, Carolinas” and describes how “Of those arrested, 20 were immigration fugitives, 14 re-entered the United States after a previous deportation and 46 were at-large criminals. The arrested aliens came from Mexico, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. ERO arrested 33 in Georgia, 15 in South Carolina and 32 in North Carolina” (ice.gov 2012).
If ICE was really interested in offering a full and complete representation of their deportation activities, they might post a picture of a child left alone in the U.S. whose parents are being deported due to a raid sponsored by ICE. Or, they might post an article about one of the 180,208 non-criminal immigrants who had been working in the United Sates for years and had made this country his home. Perhaps an exposé on how a family’s “separation poses huge economic costs to the family members in the U.S. household, who ironically may become more dependent on the U.S. government for assistance in the absence of the breadwinner ” or an article that focuses upon the tremendous “emotional, financial, and psychological trauma as a result of losing loved ones” (Hagan, Eschbach, and Rodriguez 2008: 84).
Obviously ICE isn’t going to be posting those articles anytime soon. However, what this class has taught me, and what is important for the public to understand, is that despite the stated aims of ICE, good people are being deported, losing loved ones, and being removed from their families. While the face of ICE is an anti-terrorist, anti-criminal organization, ICE is in many ways an organization that disrupts families, causing children (often times legal U.S. citizen children) psychological trauma and economic hardship.
The article “US Immigration Policy and Immigrant Children’s Well-being: The Impact of Policy Shifts” points out how “recent changes have led to a criminalization of federal immigration policy enforcement” (Androff et al. 2011:80). The way in which ICE chooses to represent itself and the people it detains is indicative of this criminalization, as it presents a much more sinister, and demonizing, depiction of who these deported immigrants are.
Androff, David K., Cecilia Ayon, David Becerra, Maria Gurrola, Lorraine Salas, JudyKrysik, Karen Gerdes, Elizabeth Segal. 2011. “US Immigration Policy and Immigrant Children’s Well-being: The Impact of Policy Shifts.” Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare XXXVIII(1): 77-98.
Hagan, Jacqueline. 2008. “U.S. Deportation Policy, Family Separation, and Circular Movement.” Internal Migration Review 42(1): 64-88.
ICE 2012. “Home”. Washington DC: Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved May 11 2012 (http://www.ice.gov/)