Politics & Policy

Stop the War on Immigration-Enforcement Agents

On the U.S.-Mexican border, 2009 (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)
Those on our nation’s front lines shouldn’t be shamed for doing their jobs.

In his post-comeback song, “Migra,” Woodstock-throwback and social activist Carlos Santana takes on the subject of immigration, telling U.S. border agents, “I see malice in your eyes/contempt in your heart.” The song, named after a derogatory Spanish term for U.S. immigration authorities, serves as a good indicator of the intellectual vacuity that defines the Left’s views on immigration policy. Everywhere from open-borders groups to mainstream-media outlets, border-enforcement itself has simply become immoral.

In progressive bellwether The Nation, resident advice-columnist Liza Featherstone recently pleaded with a self-doubting attorney for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to quit her job and find work elsewhere. ICE, according to Ms. Featherstone, is an agency that “apprehends immigrants who have usually committed no crime except crossing the border . . . sends [people] to detention centers, where they are treated like criminals . . . and sends people back to their home countries, often breaking up families.”

Such reductive rhetoric is pervasive. Perusing the immigration journals on Google Scholar one finds plenty of academic articles charging our enforcement agencies with “structural,” “systemic,” and/or “institutional” racism. In one recent article for the journal Latino Studies, University of San Diego sociology professor Greg Prieto asserts that, “[t]he continuity of racial violence in the Border Patrol . . . reveals#…#the hegemonic function of the racial state” and “ensure[s] . . . the historically continuous racial violence at the heart of the US–Mexico border project.” Prieto even manages to spin the fact that a majority of Border Patrol agents are themselves Hispanic to serve his argument. “The growing participation of Latinas/os in the Border Patrol,” he writes, “results [from ICE’s] focus on diversity recruiting [which] helps to inoculate the state against charges of racism.” The professor even attacks Hispanic agents themselves, saying their “citizenship based job and benefit systems restrict their scope of empathy” and their capacity for “transnational racial solidarity.”

Progressives’ anti-enforcement campaign is apparently having its intended effects.

In combination with the suffocating policy memos continuously pumped out of Obama’s DHS, progressives’ anti-enforcement campaign is apparently having its intended effects. As Senator Jeff Sessions pointed out to ICE director Thomas Homan at a hearing on criminal-alien releases last week, DHS now ranks dead last of all federal agencies in employee morale. On average a Border Patrol agent is assaulted in the line of duty every single day. But when the agents’ near 17,000-member union endorsed Donald Trump for president, it was smugly chastised by the New York Times editorial board for its “monumental dimness.” The union, in its podcast, shot back clearly and forcefully: “Border agents are patriotic people. They wanna do their job, they wanna defend this country.”

Homan, a former New York City cop well-respected among pro-immigration-control advocates, was himself made the subject of a recent hit piece by Washington Post writer Lisa Rein, who is apparently aghast that Homan could actually be given a civil-service award for “kicking illegal immigrants out of the country.” But as far as I can tell, Rein’s paper has offered no condemnation for Border Patrol Chief R. Gil Kerlikowske, who recently threatened to retaliate against subordinates if they spoke out against the halving of deportations under this administration. Nor has the Post or any other mainstream outlet leapt to the defense of top ICE prosecutor Patricia Vroom, who was forced out of her position after questioning DHS’s “prosecutorial-discretion” diktats.

Instead of being made to feel proud for protecting our nation’s security and sovereignty, the men and women of America’s largest law-enforcement agency are being attacked. Where before the open-borders lobby restricted itself to seeking a sympathetic exception for those who entered the U.S. illegally, now it strives to make Border Patrol agents feel personally penitent for their “hateful” occupation. It’s a tactical escalation that expertly obscures the oath Border Patrol agents took to enforce the strict apprehension and removal mandates of our democratically enacted immigration laws. Putting aside the Obama administration’s heavy-handed, unconstitutional effort to erase said laws, that oath remains as valid as it ever was. Our immigration-enforcement officers put their lives on the line to uphold it every day, and their efforts are worthy of respect, rather than scorn.

Ian SmithIan Smith is an attorney in Washington, D.C., and a contributing blogger with immigration enforcement advocate, the Immigration Reform Law Institute.

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