WASHINGTON, D.C. — Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was untouchable legislatively just one year ago.
What a difference a presidency makes.
With Joe Biden’s ascent to the presidency, the federal agency favorite under Donald Trump finds itself deeper in the political wilderness than ever before in the new term.
“In terms of ICE’s specific budget [for 2022], I can’t tell you if it increased or whether it stays the same,” House Homeland Security chair Bennie Thompson (D-MI) told Latino Rebels last month in the Speaker’s lobby.
Pressed on the feasibility of passing a funding decrease for ICE this year, Chairman Thompson paused, then spoke slowly, quietly.
“Well,” said Thompson, “let me say whatever we spend, it needs to be in the right direction. If we need more facilities to house the influx of people, then those facilities need to meet standards. They just shouldn’t be warehousing people like we’ve had to do.”
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas —a senior policy hand to every Democratic president since Bill Clinton— was confirmed by the Senate on February 2. Since then, the Cuban American has had to contend with undoing the willful damage the Trump administration did to the federal immigration system.
There was no record-keeping of those separated families,” Mayorkas told MSNBC earlier this month of the migrant children the Trump administration ordered separated from their parents at the border. The policy drew intense condemnation both at home and abroad after videos began to surface online, broadcasting the agonizing sight and sounds of human rights catastrophes within the federal deportation machine.
“We certainly have a challenge at the border,” Mayorkas said. “We have remarkable people to address that challenge and a plan in place that we are executing.”
Thompson told Latino Rebels that Mayorkas “has assured me that the values we have as Americans will be upheld at any of the 22 agencies under him.”
Still, where does this leave ICE?
“The amounts that we have provided to ICE since 9/11 have not been warranted,” Rep. Chuy García (D-IL) told Latino Rebels. “It’s created a lot of problems in terms of enforcement and discrimination and racial profiling.”
“I have always favorited a reduction in those types of investments,” Garcia continued. “I also think that this is a time to even consider renaming the agency that came from a national security threat —you know, the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington— and I think that the emphasis on DHS should be in service to the immigrant community.”
The Department of Homeland Security did not reply to multiple requests for comment on ICE budgeting for 2022.
Pablo Manríquez is Latino Rebels’ Washington correspondent. He is an immigrant from Santiago de Chile with a political science degree from the University of Notre Dame. The Washington Post calls him “an Internet folk hero.” Twitter: @PabloReports.