Congress Needs To Hold ICE Accountable for Abuses

When Karah de Oliveira and her husband, Fabiano, showed up at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Office in Lawrence, Massachusetts, they expected to have an interview about their marriage, the first part of an application for a green card. Fabiano has lived in the U.S. since 2005 and the two have a 5-year-old son together.

But Immigration and Customs Enforcement had other ideas.

ICE arrested Fabiano, who became one of many members of our communities who have been arrested while trying to normalize their status, in the latest example of how aggressive ICE has become since President Trump’s inauguration.

Put ICE back on its leash

In the past year, ICE has gone after parents dropping off their children at schoolprimary caregivers to family members with disabilities; domestic abuse survivors seeking legal protections; religious minorities who fear persecution; political activists; community leaders; and people who work everywhere from convenience stores to dairy farms.

While ICE abuses certainly predate the arrival of the Trump administration, there has been a notable increase in the number of arrests of people who don’t have criminal records, those who show up to routine check-in meetings with agents, and even people previously offered humanitarian exceptions. ICE has also ramped up arrests at courthouses, which dissuades victims and witnesses from reporting crimes or testifying in trials, and rescinded an Obama-era directive instructing agents to exercise discretion with military veterans and college students who are undocumented.

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan have even threatened to arrest local officials who do not cooperate with ICE.

But during the State of the Union, Trump painted a very different picture of ICE, framing the agency as a savior of crime-ridden streets. Trump said that “open borders have allowed drugs and gangs to pour into our most vulnerable communities” and “caused the loss of many innocent lives.”

While Trump uses his bully pulpit to extol ICE and ignore its abuses, grassroots activists and immigrant community leaders been drawing attention to ICE’s role in terrorizing communities.

Just in January alone, demonstrators have rallied against ICE not only in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Newark and Seattle but also in cities and towns like Providence, Rhode Island; Athens, Georgia; Youngstown, Ohio; Bryan, Texas; Metuchen, New Jersey; and Bensalem, Pennsylvania.

In Cary, North Carolina, one church group held a candlelight vigil outside of an ICE office to protest the deportation of one of its members, who reported that ICE has barred him from receiving necessary medication. Local activists in Goshen, Indiana, succeeded in stopping plans to build an ICE detention center in their county.

People Power volunteers mobilized across the country on the Freedom Cities initiative, changing policies on local cooperation with ICE and Customs and Border Protection in cities and counties across the country.

But they can’t stand up to ICE alone.

As the debate around immigration takes center stage in Congress, this is a critical opportunity for elected officials to demand changes in the way ICE operates.

Members of Congress should demand that ICE explain its actions in cases like those of Audemio Orozco-Ramirez of Montana, a 44-year-old father of seven who was raped in ICE custody in 2003 and was last year detained by ICE during a routine check-in visit; Miguel Perez Jr., a U.S. Army veteran with two kids slated for deportation; or 39-year-old Jorge Garcia of Michigan, who was deported after living in the United States since he was 10 years old, leaving behind a wife and two children.

We have already seen members of Congress rally against the arrest of immigrant rights advocate Ravi Ragbir in New York; protest plans to deport Tacoma, Washington, immigration activist Maru Mora-Villalpando; and try to stop the deportation of Amer Othman Adi, a store owner in Ohio who has lived in the country for nearly four decades. On Jan. 29, ICE deported Adi to Jordan, ignoring a request from his Congressman, also approved by the House Judiciary Committee, for a six-month stay. California senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris called out ICE for retaliating against sanctuary cities by targeting them with raids, and in New Jersey, the newly elected governor, Phil Murphy, visited people living in a sanctuary church.

We cannot let Donald Trump go unchallenged or ICE abuses left unaddressed.

Politicians who want to lead on immigration need to speak up and deal with the reality that ICE needs to be held to account for its abuses and lawlessness.

View comments (48)
Read the Terms of Use


The article fails to mention the many illegals who are dangerous criminals including the many El Salvadoran gang members responsible for the gun violence in Boston and around the country.
We need a balanced perspective


Deportations should start with the ICE’s family and themselves. ICE is the cancer of society !!


Hey fake Timothy Leary, toilet paper? That never happened. You are a racist moron.


Dear commenters,
While it is interesting to read your comments, both those insightful ones and the more flip and reactive ones, it saddens me to see anonymous, anonymous, anonymous: when you fail to stand with your name and identity you make a poignantly strong and powerful statement about your personal status [or self perceived lack there-of perhaps?], feelings and fear - which is rather the point at this point.
Walk a moment in the shoes of those with the will, and who are prepared to use their identities and names - I beseech you to find your true voice, true value and place in a world where you CAN stand with your name in peace with your own soul and being, whatever you conceive that to be.
Tanja Maria Burns


My Iraqi friend was just released from ICE custody after 8 months thanks to the ACLU and his pro bono attorney, one of many who are saving graces in this nightmare. He is still awaiting a new deportation hearing. The crime my friend committed years ago and not since was equal to some, but less than other of the "me too" offenses that the rich, white, and powerful serve no time for. In his 20s at the time, he served 5 years and matured in prison. He has committed no crimes since his release, and has been working with a work permit, paying taxes, bills and rent (no public assistance) helping his neighbors and friends by shoveling and offering rides, just because he's a good person. If he is deported he could be killed because he has Americanized and converted to Christianity. I just wanted to tell one of the stories. If you can't get past "he committed a crime" for him, how can you do that for the citizens? We all need compassion at some point.


Stop abusing, we all no criminals.


“Extremes to the right and to the left of any political dispute are always wrong.”
― Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Get it all on record now - get the films - get the witnesses -because somewhere down the road of history some bastard will get up and say that this never happened.”
― Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Peace and justice are two sides of the same coin.”
― Dwight D. Eisenhower


I'm sorry but you lost all credibility when you refused to defend attorney client privelage. You are now nothing more than a partisan organisation, shame on you.


Stay Informed