— As the demand to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spreads across the country—and with community members building protest encampments outside ICE facilities in several cities this week—some officers with the 15-year-old agency have now added their voices to the growing call to dissolve it.
The agents work in ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) unit, which focuses on crimes including drug trafficking, human smuggling, and child pornography.
“The perception of investigative independence is unnecessarily impacted by the political nature of civil immigration enforcement,” wrote the agents to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. “Many jurisdictions continue to refuse to work with HSI because of a perceived linkage to the politics of civil immigration.”
The officers suggested that ICE be dissolved and its work divided among two new separate agencies, one focused on HSI and one focused on Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO)—the unit which has enforced President Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policy.
As the Texas Observer reported, the Department of Homeland Security “shifted HSI funds to other parts of ICE to cover the costs of civil immigration enforcement, including $34.5 million in 2016.”
Lawmakers and the public alike have grown increasingly alarmed over the agency’s operations as ICE officers under the Trump administration, including forcibly separating children from their parents; conducting aggressive raids in private homes; detaining a man whose green card application was underway; and pressuring a spokesperson to lie about their work.
The call from ICE agents drew attention from Trump critics on social media, who said it put on clear display the fact that the president’s immigration policies have centered on persecuting immigrants, contrary to his claims that ICE is focused on protecting U.S. national security.