The Joe Biden administration has signaled that it is offering an ambitious immigration reform package to Congress. Although the package is yet to be fully released, it has been reported that among the proposed reforms includes legalization for about 11 million undocumented immigrants and the Dreamers.
The Biden proposal is ambitious. However, it is facing opposition from some Democrats and the Republicans.
The Biden immigration proposal offers to resolve many problems with the current immigration regime – from economic immigrants to bureaucratic impediments – it nonetheless does not go far enough to address systematic problems with agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents view immigrants as something to fear. As such, ICE treats immigrants as criminals regardless of whether they have violated any laws, or not. Immigration law, itself blames immigrants as it purposely dehumanizes immigrants be labeling them as “aliens”.
Border Patrol agents routinely appear in the news media killing people even when not performing their duties. It is the numerous crimes committed by Border Patrol agents that suggest a systematic failure within the ranks of the agency.
On December 14, 2020, a shootout between a retired Houston Police officer and a retired customs agent in Kerr County, Texas resulted in the death of the retired police officer. Although charges have not been filed, news reports suggest that the shooter – retired customs agent Kenneth Brown – has been having problems with his neighbors for some time. Brown is just one example of ICE agents involved in situations leading to the death of an individual.
In 2020, several Border Patrol agents were arrested on various charges ranging from QANON-led threats by an agent to kill his supervisor, to child molestation charges to rape. Not only are abusive allegations difficult to ascertain because of the secretive nature of the DHS, but in late 2020, the agency asked for permission to destroy internal CBP documents detailing misconduct within the Border Patrol.
It is not just individual agents but the agency that has a history of abusive behavior. On October 13, 2020, the Committee on Foreign Relations of the United States Senate released a report titled DHS Run Amok? The report detailed the illegal operation by DHS agents by transporting immigrants to the Guatemala-Honduras border in violation of the law.
Under the Trump administration the institutionalized racism and anti-immigrant stance of ICE was put on display at the national stage.
A racist culture within the ranks of the Border Patrol is well documented. “For years, the Border Patrol has quietly tolerated racist terminology” within the agency and “treating people as if they aren’t people,” former agents have reported.
The Biden proposal recognizes the problems at ICE. The proposal includes “funding for training and continuing education to promote agent and officer safety and professionalism.” It also seeks to increase the number of agents at the DHS Office of Professional Responsibility “to investigate criminal and administrative misconduct” by ICE agents.
This is a good start but to truly address the systematic racism within ICE, the Biden administration needs to clean house from the leadership on downward until the agency understands that its place is to enforce laws without racism.