The Biden administration’s new Homeland Security plan would effectively abolish U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) via administrative, according to a Washington Times exclusive report on Sunday.
During a remote meeting with agency personnel in Texas, several individuals familiar with the plans said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas proposed converting some of the 4,000 ICE agents to criminal investigators, a move deportation officers compared to city police departments transferring beat cops to detectives, effectively ending street patrols for basic crimes.
“This is an administrative abolishment of ICE as we currently know it,” one source told The Washington Times.
While Mr. Mayorkas’ plan would give officers a promotion to the rank of agent, officers who took part in the discussion said they felt the offer was manipulative and were being pushed out of the jobs they signed up for.
“It’s all spin,” one source said. “We’re not going to abolish ICE, but we really are going to abolish ICE as you know it.”
Acting Director at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Tae Johnson agreed with Mayorkas during the phone meeting, according to one of the Times’ sources.
When approached by the news outlet, the Department of Homeland Security said it “won’t comment on internal meetings.”
According to the Times, ICE officers believe they would take a hefty pay cut averaging around $9,000 per year as a result of eliminated overtime hours if the change is implemented.
For years, a number of Democrats and immigrants rights activists have called to “Abolish ICE”, specifically the Enforcement and Removal Operations branch, which processes arrests, detainments and deportations of illegal immigrants.
According to Jessica Vaughan, policy studies director at the Center for Immigration Studies, a small percentage of illegal immigrants are ever prosecuted criminally, meaning much of ICE’s immigration enforcement happens administratively.
“By eliminating the option of removing people on administrative charges, Mayorkas will be eliminating ICE’s ability to enforce immigration laws, and as a side effect, eliminating ICE’s ability to use its immigration authorities to target all manner of criminals, smugglers, gang members, fraudsters and any other illegal alien who is causing problems here,” she said.
Vaughan said converting the officers to criminal investigators would undermine the system, essentially “setting ICE up to fail in its mission,” adding that the move would actually increase criminal prosecutions.
It is unclear if the changes within the agency would require congressional approval or if Mayorkas’ could implement them administratively.
Last week, ICE issued new rules requiring officers to make written requests for supervisors’ approval to deport “low priority” illegal immigrants, including drunken drivers, certain domestic assault offenders, identity theft convicts and other felons whose crimes aren’t “aggravated”
Homeland Security officials did not say the number of deportations they anticipate will be canceled as a result of the new rules. Each case will be judged based on outside factors like family ties, officials said.