WASHINGTON, D.C. — The House of Representatives was back in the Capitol on Tuesday where Latino Rebels asked members about the future of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“It’s always a good time to defund this agency,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) told LR outside of the House chamber during afternoon votes. “It’s a rogue agency. It regularly violates human rights. And it continues to do so under the Biden administration as well.”
When pressed by Latino Rebels about defunding ICE this year, Ocasio-Cortez said that there was a “decent amount of consensus and commitment” in the appropriations process for trying to do so. “The question is if we can get DHS appropriations on the floor” of the House for a vote, she added. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is the parent agency of ICE.
“We have continued to push for creating an agency that can actually be accountable and transparent that can lead their work in a humane way and we will continue to have those conversations and push this administration and future administrations, as well,” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) said.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) said she wants to demilitarize law enforcement agencies operating in communities of color like the district she represents in Michigan, which includes parts of Detroit and Dearborn.
“I have been very much about abolishing ICE, period,” said Tlaib, pointing out that ACLU Michigan published a study in March showing that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) —another agency under DHS— uses ethnic profiling to target immigrants from Latin America.
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), chair of the House Homeland Security Committee that has direct jurisdiction over ICE, told Latino Rebels last month that he too is concerned about ICE’s human rights abuses against immigrant communities.
“ICE has a reputation in a number of minority communities akin to being abusive,” Thompson said, “akin to not taking people as human beings. I’ve had ICE raids in my district that cost millions of dollars in chicken processing plants that didn’t make sense, so they just summarily locked up the people, some who have been here for 20 years, so I have the practical experience of ICE being heavy-handed.”
Thompson is not the only member of the Congressional Black Caucus to express concern over ICE.
“I know many people in the House appropriately believe that ICE’s activities need to be evaluated and perhaps constrained,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), the current chair of the Democratic Caucus.
Reps. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) and Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL) support more novel approaches to curbing ICE’s human rights abuses in communities of color. García told LR last month that he not only supports defunding ICE but changing the agency’s name.
“I think the emphasis of DHS should be serving the immigrant community,” said García, pointing out that ICE was born out of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. “The [funding] amounts we have provided to ICE since 9/11 have not been warranted. so I have always favored a reduction in those types of investments.”
Espaillat, the first formerly undocumented person to serve in Congress, did not commit to defunding ICE but floated the idea of reallocating the agency’s funding to make it more accountable.
“I think there has to be a reimagination of what the agency should do,” Espaillat said. “They’re piloting a body camera project which I helped get money for which is now being implemented with Border Patrol that I think would work well for ICE as well to ensure that they don’t violate civil rights but also to ensure that there are no bogus allegations against the agents.”
“I think it’s important to look at the whole thing,” said Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX), “not just ICE by itself.”
The congresswoman representing eastern Houston said that she has visited “at least a dozen” immigrant detention facilities, including for-profit, non-profit, and faith-based facilities in states like Georgia, New Mexico, Texas, and California.
“To me, the worst ones are the ones that are privatized,” she said, “so I think that we need to look at what kind of resources are there and make sure they are being used at the right places and then later look to see if we need to reduce or increase any services.”
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.