United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Present Challenges to Freedom
Recent communications internal to the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office at the Department of Homeland Security, reveal the details of the administration’s efforts to step up enforcement of immigration laws and specifically to increase the number of foreigners being deported. The emails and memo, dated in April and May of 2012, were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) North Carolina chapter. They paint a picture of police state–a state filled with enforcement efforts at every corner.
Few would argue our existing laws should be enforced, but the method of enforcement needs to take into account the nature of the free society in which we live. As described in these documents, ICE is working with local law enforcement officials to use facial recognition technology together with the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) database to identify “targets” for removal.
They are also checking DMV records for temporary licenses issued to foreigners. ICE is “participating with” scheduled traffic checkpoints operated by local law enforcement, setting up a secondary vetting location to interview even mere passengers in each vehicle. ICE officers have also been directed to work overtime at local jails to identify foreigners with criminal histories who might otherwise be released by local authorities. These stepped-up efforts are all designed to help ICE meet its fiscal year “quota” for deportations.
The problem with most of these efforts is not just that they are intrusive, it’s that they cast a broad net that will invariably include those who aren’t targeted. That’s what police state’s do–all enforcement all the time, everywhere. These efforts, though justifiable to most, inch us closer to the very nemesis of a free democracy. ICE has long followed a policy of reviewing criminal records to find those who are removable under our laws. Those efforts are not intrusive, and they are targeted to the very individuals that ICE wants to find. Why not step up those efforts instead of spying on us all?
Those of us interested in preserving not just our actual freedom of movement, but the very feeling that we live in a free society should oppose dragnets like these. The omnipresent watchful eye that ICE is becoming forces all of us, targeted or not, to wonder who is watching us and what they are looking for. It leaves everyone with the distinct feeling that we are, in fact, not free.