Chattanooga Times Free Press - - OPINION - BY DAVID INSERRA

Some on the far left aren’t con­tent to sim­ply protest Immigration and Cus­toms En­force­ment (ICE). They want to abol­ish it. In­deed, get­ting rid of ICE al­to­gether is quickly be­com­ing a lit­mus test for politi­cians on the left.

But what would it ac­tu­ally mean to abol­ish ICE?

Let’s looks at ICE’s three mis­sions: pre­vent­ing ter­ror­ism, in­ves­ti­gat­ing il­le­gal move­ment of peo­ple and goods, and immigration en­force­ment.

With­out ICE, the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity would lose its main law en­force­ment agency that fo­cuses on counter ter­ror­ism. ICE par­tic­i­pates in the FBI-led Joint Ter­ror­ism Task­forces around the coun­try, pro­vid­ing U.S. law en­force­ment with im­por­tant cross­bor­der in­for­ma­tion used to find and stop ter­ror­ist plots against the home­land.

ICE also sup­ports vet­ting of visa ap­pli­ca­tions through the Visa Se­cu­rity Pro­gram, which de­ploys se­cu­rity spe­cial­ists to U.S. con­sulates abroad to ad­vise and as­sist State Depart­ment visa of­fi­cers. Its Counter-Pro­lif­er­a­tion In­ves­ti­ga­tions Pro­gram, mean­while, works to pre­vent weapons of mass de­struc­tion and other weapons from fall­ing into the hands of ter­ror­ists and other bad ac­tors. And ICE’s Coun­tert­er­ror­ism and Crim­i­nal Ex­ploita­tion Unit pur­sues those who il­le­gally over­stay their visa who may pose a se­cu­rity risk.

Sim­i­larly, with­out ICE, the govern­ment’s abil­ity to in­ves­ti­gate a va­ri­ety of crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties would be weak­ened. ICE con­ducts in­ves­ti­ga­tions into cash, art, firearms, ex­plo­sives and hu­man smug­gling. ICE also works to stop the traf­fick­ing of per­sons and the ex­ploita­tion of chil­dren. ICE works to dis­man­tle transna­tional crim­i­nal or­ga­ni­za­tions, en­force trade and sanc­tions laws, and com­bat money laun­der­ing, cy­ber-crime and cor­rup­tion.

Even those wav­ing around their “Abol­ish ICE” ban­ners can see that these func­tions are nec­es­sary and shouldn’t go away. It is the last of ICE’s mis­sions — immigration en­force­ment — that draws most pro­test­ers’ ire.

En­forc­ing U.S. immigration laws in­cludes en­gag­ing in re­moval op­er­a­tions to ac­tu­ally re­turn il­le­gal im­mi­grants to their home coun­try. In the course of pros­e­cut­ing those who have bro­ken U.S. immigration laws, aliens are of­ten de­tained or mon­i­tored by ICE, just as other law­break­ers who are likely to ab­scond are of­ten held or given terms for their re­lease.

Since U.S. immigration laws in­clude re­quire­ments for busi­nesses to hire work­ers who are au­tho­rized to work in the U.S., ICE also en­forces the law at work­sites, as well as com­bats iden­tity theft. Ad­di­tion­ally, ICE works with state and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties to re­move crim­i­nal aliens, gang mem­bers and fugi­tives from the law.

Most Amer­i­cans un­der­stand that U.S. laws de­fine the path­ways through which an in­di­vid­ual may legally en­ter and re­main in the U.S. Any­one who does not en­ter the U.S. through these path­ways or who af­ter en­ter­ing legally does not abide by the terms of their immigration sta­tus has no right to re­main in the U.S.

The U.S. has the right to de­ter­mine what the stan­dards are for im­mi­grants en­ter­ing and stay­ing in the U.S. and to change those stan­dards when it wishes. Abol­ish­ing the immigration en­force­ment func­tions of ICE is ul­ti­mately about al­low­ing any im­mi­grant who il­le­gally en­ters or re­mains in the U.S. to stay here, with or with­out any ac­tual le­gal sta­tus.

U.S. immigration laws should be fully and faith­fully en­forced, some­thing the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is try­ing hard to do. And while some ob­ject to spe­cific poli­cies or con­se­quences of ICE’s poli­cies, that’s hardly a good rea­son to junk the whole agency and the very con­cept of immigration laws.

Quite sim­ply, abol­ish­ing ICE is a pri­mal scream for open bor­ders and less se­cu­rity — an idea that can­not be taken se­ri­ously.

David Inserra is a pol­icy an­a­lyst spe­cial­iz­ing in home­land se­cu­rity and cy­ber­se­cu­rity at The Her­itage Foun­da­tion.

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