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Editorial: We need to stand up to ICE

  • People listen as Vice President Mike Pence speaks at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) headquarters on Friday in Washington, D.C. AP PHOTO


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Across Franklin County and the North Quabbin area, elected officials are taking a stand on whether to back or snub the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

ICE was formed in 2003 through a merger of the investigative and interior enforcement elements of the former U.S. Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, according to its website. It enforces federal laws governing immigration, border control, trade and customs. Under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy on immigration, it has been wielded as a blunt weapon against immigration rights protected by law.

There are consequences to standing up to ICE. The Trump White House builds on relationships with law enforcement personnel in friendly jurisdictions and ratchets up the pressure on those who don’t by threatening to take away federal funding. So decisions to back or snub ICE are not made lightly.

At the Franklin County Jail and House of Correction in Greenfield, Sheriff Christopher Donelan’s adherence to the letter of the law when it comes to his contract with ICE amounts to a snub. That contract, which brings in close to $3 million a year, stipulates that the Franklin County jail will only hold people who have already gone through the judicial process and have been convicted of crimes.

“I’ve made it very clear,” Donelan said recently, “that I won’t hold people here only because of their immigration status.”

In other words, Donelan, an Orange native, will not be ICE’s partner in depriving asylum-seekers of a hearing before a judge, will not aid and abet the separation of families at the southern border by holding parents thousands of miles away from their children and will not be complicit in ICE raids, such as a “targeted vehicle stop” in Hatfield last November, resulting in the deportation proceedings against three undocumented Guatemalan migrants. That raid happened overnight and those migrants were brought to the Franklin County House of Correction. The next morning, when Donelan found out about his latest arrivals, he told federal officials that they must be sent elsewhere. “We sent them out because we weren’t convinced of the situation there or our ability to legally hold them,” Donelan said.

Also in the “snub” column is Rep. James McGovern, D-Worcester, one of the first U.S. House members to call for ICE’s abolition.

“It’s time to abolish ICE,” McGovern posted on his website on June 28. “We need to start a fresh conversation. If there are elements that work, we can maintain and strengthen those aspects. Otherwise, we need to thoroughly re-evaluate and re-think immigration enforcement. ... “I am urging my fellow legislators to join me in fixing this deeply politicized and broken system.”

Legislation proposed by Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wisc., would dismantle ICE and form a commission to make recommendations to Congress on how the federal government can implement a humane immigration enforcement system. McGovern said that he spoke to Pocan and that both of their offices are involved in drafting the bill, along with the offices of others in Congress.

“We’re not rushing something to the floor,” said McGovern, who confirmed that he would be a co-sponsor of the legislation. As for its chances, McGovern noted that Democrats do not control the House. However, he said that he hopes that it promotes discussion, at a minimum.

“I think the status quo is not working,” McGovern said.

Speaking about the border situation, Donelan said it’s “absolutely horrendous ... It makes me sick to my stomach to see our federal government treating people that way.”

We agree and believe this discussion is long overdue.


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