'Occupy ICE' desperately needs a civics lesson

'Occupy ICE' desperately needs a civics lesson
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Regardless of what one thinks about the merits or demerits of current U.S. immigration policies, “Occupy ICE” — the populist, progressive vilification of the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — is a wrongheaded movement in need of a civics lesson.

Participants in the movement are making unrealistic demands and vilifying civil servants who are implementing a policy promulgated by U.S. elected officials.


Over the past several days, disruptive protests have erupted from Portland, Oregon to New York. According to the Washington Post, the nascent Occupy ICE movement erupted from a gaggle of protestors at the Portland ICE facility, who reasoned that the U.S. could not deport people if the judicial process was prevented from working and thus sought to bar judges, lawyers and litigants from the building.


The protestors in Washington, D.C., turned Occupy ICE into a personal attack on federal workers with one protestor at ICE headquarters demanding to know whether officers had children and a crowd screaming, “Quit your jobs!” at ICE employees.

These protestors are conflating politics and policy. For instance, the organizer of a New York protest accused ICE of escalating “repression ... criminalization and dehumanization of immigrants as a result of [Donald] Trump’s election.”

There are increasing calls among these extremists to “abolish ICE,” apparently in the mistaken belief that this will somehow resolve matters in illegal immigrants’ favor.

Protestors’ naïveté about these matters is understandable given their tenuous association with reality. Participants include prison abolitionists (ah yes, letting the criminals roam free always makes for a better society), anarchist collectives (not exactly the bellwethers of national politics) and the Democratic Socialists of America (who bring politics to the dinner table).

These groups might be appalled, or perhaps not, if they realized that their actions were degrading American society with the same corrosiveness as that which they attribute to the actions of the current White House.

By intentionally disrupting judicial proceedings, Occupy ICE protestors are clawing away at the rule of law and replacing it with unchecked emotion. Shutting down the operations of ICE — and contravening elected officials’ decisions — disenfranchises the voters who, for better or worse, cast their ballots and expected results. 

Furthermore, neither hurling imprecations at the ICE workforce nor demanding the abolition of ICE address the issue about which protestors are so concerned. ICE, like any other U.S. bureaucracy, has no control over politics and is simply carrying out policy promulgated by elected officials. (Also, please do not invoke the, “That’s what they said in Nazi Germany, too,” rejoinder. The two scenarios are not remotely comparable.)

Tearing apart ICE at this point might actually produce conditions far worse than those which Occupy ICErs perceives at present. The function of immigration enforcement is not going to simply vanish. A new bureaucracy will have to fill the void.

Do the anarchists and socialists out there really want an enforcement agency crafted under a Trump administration and a Republican-dominated Congress?  

Occupy ICE needs a civics lesson. Agencies do not make political decisions. Elected officials do. Attacking ICE is an assault on the rule-of-law and is a step toward disenfranchising the voting public who — rightly or wrongly — cast their ballots.

Even if the Occupy ICErs got what they wanted — the abolition of ICE — they would likely be appalled by the agency’s replacement.

Darren E. Tromblay has served the U.S. intelligence community, as an intelligence analyst, for more than a decade. He is the author of "The U.S. Domestic Intelligence Enterprise: History, Development, and Operations" (Taylor & Francis, 2015) and co-author of "Securing U.S. Innovation" (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016).