U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection, the two Homeland Security agencies best known for their mistreatment of the immigrants they arrest, detain, and deport, know no limits to their abuse. But a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office illustrates the kind of “mistakes” ICE and CBP are willing to make in their quest to attack and deport migrants—and show another reason why these agencies should cease to exist.
Published on Tuesday, the report on the GAO’s analysis of available ICE data show that ICE and CBP “took enforcement actions against” hundreds of “potential” U.S. citizens.
According to the data, beginning in 2015 and through March 2020, ICE arrested 674 people, put 121 people in detention, and deported 70 people who fall under this classification.
The data also shows that during this time, ICE sent out detainers (notices to local sheriff or police departments telling them a person has “probable cause” for deportation) for hundreds of citizens—at least 895 people. They canceled about 74 percent of those detainers, but the study makes no mention of what ICE did with the other 26 percent of these detainers on citizens.
It’s unclear why the GAO uses the phrase “potential U.S. citizens,” but they disclose that the analysis was ordered to “review issues related to U.S. citizens detained by ICE or held by CBP on administrative immigration charges,” and that the report looked at how thorough ICE and CBP’s policies are for investigating potential U.S. citizens.
“But how could this possibly happen!” people unfamiliar with the horrors of ICE and CBP may ask. The GAO report goes into this too, naming a few protocols that you’d reasonably assume would be in place at agencies that investigate people based upon their citizenship status, but aren’t. From the GAO report:
Further, while ICE policy requires officers to document citizenship investigations in ICE data systems, it does not require officers to update the citizenship field after identifying evidence that an individual may be a U.S. citizen. As a result, ICE does not know the extent to which its officers are taking enforcement actions against individuals who could be U.S. citizens.
The revelation that ICE and CBP are “erroneously” arresting and deporting their country’s own citizens is nothing new. In a 2018 investigation published by the Los Angeles Times, ICE was found to have detained more than 1,480 people since 2012, under both the Obama and Trump administrations. These people were later released after they were found to be U.S. citizens. From the Times report:
Victims include a landscaper snatched in a Home Depot parking lot in Rialto and held for days despite his son’s attempts to show agents the man’s U.S. passport; a New York resident locked up for more than three years fighting deportation efforts after a federal agent mistook his father for someone who wasn’t a U.S. citizen; and a Rhode Island housekeeper mistakenly targeted twice, resulting in her spending a night in prison the second time even though her husband had brought her U.S. passport to a court hearing.
Citizens being swept up in the police state is another painful argument for why these agencies shouldn’t exist in the first place. There’s no “reforming” DHS to ensure they get “right” people. ICE and CBP are allowed to operate under the assumption (and with impunity) that all people who cross its path—migrants, immigrants, permanent residents, citizens, anyone—are criminals who must be punished to the fullest extent of the law, and that is why they are dangerous to everyone. Abolish them. Abolish them all.