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Hullabaloo


Monday, July 24, 2017

 
Meanwhile, down at the border

by digby




The New Yorker's Jonathan Blitzer has been speaking to an ICE agent on background for some months. He's  disturbed by what he's seeing:
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. Rather than detaining these young people, the government had placed them in the care of families around the country. Most of them are trying to lead new lives as American transplants, going to school and working. ice now plans to pursue those who have turned eighteen since crossing the border, and who, as a result, qualify for detention as legal adults. “I don’t see the point in it,” the agent said. “The plan is to take them back into custody, and then figure it out. I don’t understand it. We’re doing it because we can, and it bothers the hell out of me.”

The agent went on, “The whole idea is targeting kids. I know that technically they meet the legal definition of being adults. Fine. But if they were my kids travelling in a foreign country, I wouldn’t be O.K. with this. We’re not doing what we tell people we do. If you look next month, or at the end of this month, at the people in custody, it’s people who’ve been here for years. They’re supposed to be in high school.”

The agent was especially concerned about a new policy that allows ice to investigate cases of immigrants who may have paid smugglers to bring their children or relatives into the country. ice considers these family members guilty of placing children “directly in harm’s way,” as one spokeswoman recently put it, and the agency will hold them “accountable for their role in these conspiracies.” According to ice, these measures will help combat “a constant humanitarian threat,” but the agent said that rationale was just a pretext to increase arrests and eventually deport more people. “We seem to be targeting the most vulnerable people, not the worst.” The agent also believes that the policy will make it harder for the government to handle unaccompanied children who show up at the border. “You’re going to have kids stuck in detention because parents are too scared of being prosecuted to want to pick them up!” the agent said.

U.S. immigration courts are facing a backlog of half a million cases, with only a limited number of judges available to hear them and issue rulings. “We still have to make decisions based on a responsible use of the government’s resources—you can’t lock everybody up,” the agent said. “We’re putting more people into that overburdened system just because we can. There’s just this school of thought that, well, we can do what we want.”

Before this year, the agent had never spoken to the media. “I have a couple of colleagues that I can kind of talk to, but not many,” the agent said. “This has been a difficult year for many of us.” These people, not just at ice but also at other federal agencies tasked with enforcing the nation’s immigration laws, are “trying to figure out how to minimize the damage.” It isn’t clear what, exactly, they can do under the circumstances. “Immigration is a pendulum—it swings to the left sometimes, or it swings to the right,” the agent told me last week. “But there was a normal range. Now people are bringing their own opinions into work.” In the agent’s view, ice is a changed agency.


What he's seeing is a bunch of guys with guns and uniforms drunk with power believing hey have a free hand to go after a particular vulnerable population. I think

“I like predictability,” the agent said. “I like being able to go into work and have faith in my senior managers and the Administration, and to know that, regardless of their political views, at the end of the day they’re going to do something that’s appropriate. I don’t feel that way anymore.”

And the Trump administration wants to hire thousands more, many of whom will not be vetted or properly trained.

Many local police and border patrol and ICE and DHS have all adopted military tactics over the past few years. They see themselves as being at war. The enemy depends on the agency but it's almost always black and brown.

Here's how badly this can go sideways:

We don’t know if Philippine National Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa realizes it. But no other event since the Duterte administration came to power has dealt a greater blow to the credibility of the police in the war on drugs than the treacherous killing last Sunday of anticrime crusader Zenaida Luz in Oriental Mindoro.
Ms. Luz’s killers drove by her house on a motorcycle wearing a bonnet and a mask. It was close to midnight. She was shot in cold blood while standing in front of her house, waiting for someone who had contacted her asking for help. It was clearly a ruse.

Responding to a distress call from village officials, a police patrol team caught up with the fleeing masked killers, who traded shots with them. Cornered and wounded, the gunmen desperately shouted “Tropa, tropa!” to signal that they were friendly troops. To their horror and shock, the police recognized the gunmen as indeed from their ranks. The assailants turned out to be Senior Insp. Magdaleno Pimentel Jr. and Insp. Markson Almeranez—out of their uniforms, moonlighting as vigilante killers.

Are we there yet? No. But too close for comfort.

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