A Veteran ICE Agent, Disillusioned with the Trump Era, Speaks Out

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In March, two months after President Trump took office, I received a text message from a veteran agent at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ice). I had been trying to find field agents willing to describe what life was like at the agency in the Trump era. This agent agreed to talk. Over the past four months, we have texted often and spoken on the phone several times. Some of our discussions have been about the specifics of new federal policies aimed at dramatically increasing the number of deportations. At other times, we’ve talked more broadly about how the culture at ice has shifted. In April, the agent texted me a screen shot of a page from the minutes of a recent meeting, during which a superior had said that it was “the most exciting time to be part of ice” in the agency’s history. The photo was sent without commentary—the agent just wanted someone on the outside to see it.

The agent, who has worked in federal immigration enforcement since the Clinton Administration, has been unsettled by the new order at ice. During the campaign, many rank-and-file agents publicly cheered Trump’s pledge to deport more immigrants, and, since Inauguration Day, the Administration has explicitly encouraged them to pursue the undocumented as aggressively as possible. “We’re going to get sued,” the agent told me at one point. “You have guys who are doing whatever they want in the field, going after whoever they want.” At first, the agent spoke to me on the condition that I not publish anything about our conversations. But that has changed. Increasingly angry about the direction in which ice is moving, the agent agreed last week to let me publish some of the details of our talks, as long as I didn’t include identifying information.

“We used to look at things through the totality of the circumstances when it came to a removal order—that’s out the window,” the agent told me the other day. “I don’t know that there’s that appreciation of the entire realm of what we’re doing. It’s not just the person we’re removing. It’s their entire family. People say, ‘Well, they put themselves in this position because they came illegally.’ I totally understand that. But you have to remember that our job is not to judge. The problem is that now there are lots of people who feel free to feel contempt.”

Like many ice employees, the agent was a critic of President Barack Obama, whose push to standardize enforcement practice and micromanage agents, particularly during his second term, was a source of frustration at the agency. Yet with Obama gone, and the era of micromanagement over, the agent sees long-standing standards being discarded and basic protocols questioned. “I have officers who are more likely now to push back,” the agent said. “I’d never have someone say, ‘Why do I have to call an interpreter? Why don’t they speak English?’ Now I get it frequently. I get this from people who are younger. That’s one group. And I also get it from people who are ethnocentric: ‘Our way is the right way—I shouldn’t have to speak in your language. This is America.’ ” It all adds up, the agent said, “to contempt that I’ve never seen so rampant towards the aliens.”

The agent’s decision to allow me to write about our conversations came after learning that ice was making a push, beginning this week, to arrest young undocumented immigrants who were part of a large wave of unaccompanied minors who crossed the border in recent years and who, until now, had been allowed to live in the U.S. 

Read the entire article at http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/a-veteran-ice-agent-disillusioned-with-the-trump-era-speaks-out