Abolishing ICE isn’t the answer

New York City lawmakers, including state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), are waging a fight to abolish ICE in favor of a new agency to help control immigration.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement made headlines in Queens when a College Point pizza deliveryman — who is married to a U.S. citizen and was in the process of applying for his green card — was detained in June while delivering Italian food from Nonna Delia’s to the Fort Hamilton Army base in Brooklyn when he could not present proper identification. Base security called ICE agents after a routine background check showed the deliveryman, an undocumented immigrant from Ecuador, had been ordered by a judge to leave the country in 2010 but stayed. He was arrested and had not been allowed to see his family.

The deliveryman appeared in Manhattan federal court Tuesday, where a judge questioned how his treatment served U.S. immigration policy and ordered his immediate release from custody.

Peralta, along with Bronx state Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, is pushing a bill to prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from acting in concert with ICE to arrest and detain immigrants within state lines. New York state would additionally be barred from entering any contract with the federal government for the purpose of detaining and deporting immigrants.

Peralta made it clear that the dismantling of ICE is not an endorsement of open borders, but is eliminating the federal agency the right answer? After all, ICE is under the jurisdiction of the federal government. And therein lies the problem.

We can demand change all we want, but in this case, it is up to the federal government to take charge of the situation. That’s where the fight needs to be fought. ICE agents are following order from their bosses, who get them from their bosses, and so on. And if the order to separate children from their families after crossing the border exists, there won’t be any shift to ICE or the way its agents carry out their orders.

There is little we can do at city or state levels to make the kind of drastic changes Peralta is calling for. There must be a federal movement to make difference.

While the idea to abolish ICE may be a bit too extreme, keeping the conversation alive will put the pressure on the government to make the necessary changes. And for that, we should applaud Peralta, Ortiz, and lawmakers across the country who are fighting to keep these families from being torn apart. These immigrants need a voice, and our elected officials are responsible for giving them a platform.