Even when people stand up for immigrants' rights and critique the methods of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), they rarely argue that the agency should be abolished all together. Samantha Bee, however, is doing just that. On Full Frontal on Wednesday evening, Bee explained why she thinks ICE should shut down.
Bee delved into the agency's history, noting how it was created in 2002 during the post-9/11 furor as a part of the United States' new Department of Homeland Security. Since then, the work of the agency has massively increased in scope: In the 2003 "highlights" section of its website, ICE notes that it arrested 1,900 undocumented immigrants that year. Last year, it arrested 143,470 people, according to its own data.
"In our national terrorism freakout, we turned immigration from an economic and labor issue to a national security issue," Bee argued on Wednesday. "By putting the anti-terrorism people in charge of immigration, the government signaled that immigrants are a threat. But ICE's own figures show that most immigrants in detention pose no threat to the public."
It's true: According to a 2018 study from the National Immigrant Justice Center, 51 percent of all of the immigrants who were detained in 2017 posed no threat to the public. Twenty-three posed only a low, or "level one" threat, a term that is often used for nonviolent crimes.
Bee critiqued ICE, stating that "we spend more than $6 billion a year on this bloated, unaccountable, cruel department."
"Here’s a proposal," she continued. "Let’s shut it the f*ck down. I’m serious. It’s awful. And we don’t actually need it. You know, as a liberal, I don’t usually advocate for smaller government, but in this case, as I say to my barista every morning, there should be one less ICE."
ICE's arrests have increased significantly since President Donald Trump took office. According to a 2018 Pew Research Center report, the agency made about 30 percent more arrests in the 2017 fiscal year than in 2016. Pew noted that the surge corresponds to the timing of Trump's inauguration.
Pew also reported that Florida, Oklahoma, and northern Texas were some of the areas that saw the most increased arrests. The Dallas area saw a particularly huge spike of 71 percent — ICE in Dallas detained more people than in any other area of the United States between 2009 and 2017; it arrested 16,520 people last year.
ICE has also been in the news this week for some comments made by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. In a hearing with the House Education and the Workforce Committee on Tuesday, she claimed that schools have the right to call ICE on undocumented students and their parents. DeVos' critics immediately pounced, reminding her of the case of Plyler v. Doe, which declared that undocumented students have the right to a free public education.
As The New Yorker reported, immigrants often come to the United States to seek safety from life-threatening risks. If they're deported, they're forced to return to the place of danger. Bee pointed out that deportation often puts innocent lives at risk.
"The number one reason ICE needs to go isn't just that it's a wasteful, made-up, misplaced, useless agency," Bee said on Wednesday. "It's because it's cruel."