Abolishing ICE is not the answer

SAN DIEGO — Abolish ICE?

As political catchphrases go, it’ll do just fine. It’s pithy and punchy. It fits on a bumper sticker. Whether it infuriates or inspires you, it fires you up.

The one thing the slogan doesn’t do is make you think, because that is not the point of it.

Think on this: Immigration and Customs Enforcement is a baby bureaucracy. It was created from anger and fear in 2003, in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Things got off to an illogical start. ICE is charged with removing illegal immigrants; the 9/11 hijackers came to the United States legally. The hijackers were terrorists; ICE arrests housekeepers and gardeners. The terrorists were Muslim extremists who came to do us harm; the vast majority of those removed by ICE are Latinos who come to do our chores.

What about the fact that ICE has not yet reached puberty?

We don’t trust a 15-year-old human being to have the judgment to vote, drive, buy liquor, gamble, join the military or do a bunch of other things that require the wisdom and restraint that come with experience.

But we trust a 15-year-old law-enforcement agency — with an annual budget of more than $7 billion and a staff of about 20,000, and entrusted with enormous power rooted in both civil and criminal law — to have the judgment to act as a deportation force that decides who stays in this country and who has to leave, in ways that separate and destroy families.

Oh, and — according to wrongheaded folks on the right-wing — no American taxpayer or elected official should dare question how this agency operates, much less call for its elimination.

Yet that is exactly what is happening on the left. Liberals are always looking for ways to show they’re the most enlightened people on the planet. Demanding an end to ICE gives them a shorthand way of doing that.

▪ On CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf called ICE a “failed experiment.” When host Chris Cuomo suggested that abolishing ICE was too “radical” an idea, Schaaf said: “We have to do something radical to stop the vilification of immigrants that is happening in our country and the wrongful persecution of good families.”

▪ Rising star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who recently won the Democratic primary in New York’s heavily immigrant 14th Congressional District, called for ICE to be abolished after visiting those ghastly children internment camps on the U.S.-Mexico border. She insisted that getting rid of ICE is “not a fringe position.”

▪ Actress Cynthia Nixon, a Democrat running an insurgency campaign for governor of New York, has called ICE a “terrorist organization” that preys upon “people who are coming to this country.”

▪ New York Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted: “Every country needs reasonable law enforcement on their borders. ICE is not reasonable law enforcement. ICE is broken. It’s divisive and it should be abolished.”

▪ Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York told CNN that ICE has become a “deportation force” and that Americans “should get rid of it, start over, reimagine it and build something that actually works.”

▪ Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts wants to scrap ICE and replace it with something that “reflects our morality and that works.”

And legislation is on the way. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., introduced a bill to abolish ICE.

ICE has become a toxic brand. The top consulting firm McKinsey & Co. — which has done more the $20 million worth of consulting for ICE over the years — has stopped working for the agency, according to The New York Times.

Still, abolishing ICE is not the answer. It is not practical, workable or logical. And, besides, it’ll never happen. But the abolitionists are doing a good job of rallying the troops on the left. That might be the real goal.

Not that conservatives have conducted themselves any more honorably. They’re all about law and order now, but they too bash the badge when convenient. In 1993, after the siege at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, the National Rifle Association attacked Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents as “jackbooted thugs.” And now the Trump administration recklessly goes after the FBI for how it handled investigations into the leading presidential candidates during the 2016 elections.

Besides, it’s worth noting that those on the right also practice shorthand when they scream: “Build the Wall!” or “Abolish the IRS!” Those things won’t happen either.

That is the hard reality. Unfortunately, hard reality is no match for a good slogan.