Abolish ICE


“This book is about abolishing ICE. But it is also about so much more than that. It is about the women who clean your house, and watch your kids, and do the invisible labor that makes the world we live in possible. This book is about violence, and about cruelty. It is about fifteen-year-old girls who are propositioned by grown men, and ninety-year-old men who leave everything they’ve ever known behind. It is about being a stranger in your own home. It is also about building anew. ”
—From the foreword

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About the Book

Under the Presidency of Donald Trump, the existence of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has become a highly controversial issue. With widespread separation of families and legion abuses in privately owned detention centers, all fueled by openly racist pronouncements from the White House, increasing numbers are now demanding the abolition of the agency. They include both activists and mainstream politicians such as Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Many of the immigrants caught up in ICE’s dragnet are only attempting to cross the border because of abuses by the United States in their home countries. And harassment of those fleeing is not restricted to the present administration. Barack Obama’s presidency was responsible for nearly 3 million deportations, a record number.

Written with passion and eloquence this concise philippic provides moving examples of the abuses that occur under the cold eye of ICE and sets out convincing arguments for getting rid of it.

160 pages • Paperback ISBN 978-1-68219-204-7 • E-book 978-1-68219-208-5

About the Author

Natascha Uhlmann author photo

Photo © Laura Gannon
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Natascha Elena Uhlmann is a writer and immigrant rights activist from Sonora, Mexico. Her writing has appeared in The Guardian, Truthout, ReWire.News, and Teen Vogue. She is also the editor and translator of President of Mexico Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s book, A New Hope for Mexico.

Read an Excerpt


As the news spread of Donald Trump’s electoral victory, fear and disbelief stretched across the country. One man, however, was ecstatic. Under Trump, he would finally be able to do his job uninterrupted: Thomas Homan, then director of ICE, said he’s “taking the handcuffs off.”

Since its inception, ICE has terrorized communities and torn apart families with gusto. But Trump’s ascension represents something wholly different. In the first eight months of his presidency, ICE arrests skyrocketed by 42 percent. Courthouse arrests—despite their chilling effect on public safety—jumped a shocking 1,700 percent. As Obama-era deportation priorities are cast aside, the agency can work more efficiently and sow terror throughout the process. ICE is emboldened like never before, and no one is safe: veterans, cancer patients, and grandmothers have been ordered to be deported under the new administration.

The Trump administration has had its share of conspicuous villains. But some work more quietly in the shadows. Take L. Francis Cissna, head of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Under Trump, Cissna has overseen the establishment of a “denaturalization task force,” a team of investigators setting out to strip immigrants of citizenship granted under “false pretenses.” Though the announcement was cloaked in the language of protecting the American people, the practice makes us all less safe: allowing an agency to make broad assessments of moral character sets a precedent no citizen would wish to be subjected to. Cissna didn’t stop there: under his watch, the administration announced a new rule stating that immigrants who legally used public benefits would be denied green cards, forcing millions of poor immigrants to turn down desperately needed assistance.

Under Trump, the nature of enforcement changed radically. Where his more ambitious plans—such as the Muslim ban or eliminating domestic abuse as a protected category for asylum—were promptly challenged, a few more insidious changes took hold. The administration came to favor a policy known as “attrition through enforcement,” whereby conditions for immigrants become so inhumane that some choose to self-deport. Kris Kobach, former Kansas secretary of state, laid it out: “Illegal aliens are rational decision makers. If the risks of detention or involuntary removal go up, and the probability of being able to obtain unauthorized employment goes down, then at some point, the only rational decision is to return home.” Perversely, then, even Trump’s failed stunts still yield the desired effect: fostering a climate of fear.

As part of that strategy, the administration has employed an unyielding ideological campaign against migrants seeking safety. In May 2018, the White House published an article titled: “What You Need to Know about the Violent Animals of MS-13.” In a memo of fewer than five hundred words, the administration used the word “animals” ten times. The intent is clear: to conflate Salvadoran asylum seekers with the very gangs that terrorize them into fleeing. Of course, no mention is made of US culpability in creating and fueling the gang crisis in Central America. By the time activists and journalists point this out, the damage has been done: all immigrants are now suspect.

The Democratic Party, for its part, has offered little in the way of resistance. Time and time again they have capitulated to Republican demands, even where victory lay within reach. The problem is simple: ultimately the Democrats don’t differ as much from Republicans as we might like to think. The Democrats have accepted wholesale the Republican framing of an immigration “crisis” and readily accept the need for increased enforcement in the name of safety. Sure, they may decry the GOP’s more barbaric impulses—such as SB1070 and Trump’s posturing for a wall—but their outrage means little when they have presided over some of the most extreme border militarization in our nation’s history.

There are, of course, exceptions: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won a historic election, campaigning on the promise to abolish ICE. In a landslide victory, she unseated an opponent who had represented the district since 1999. Her success has inspired a wave of challengers targeting contested seats from the left, prompting comfortable Democratic incumbents across the country to engage with more progressive policy demands. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib also made history in 2019 as the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. Their campaigns, too, centered the demand to abolish ICE. These victories demonstrate a desire for a true progressive agenda.

The Trump administration has elevated the worst impulses of our immigration system. But there is danger in seeing Trump’s cruelty as a wholly new phenomenon. A system that assumes nefarious intent on the part of immigrants significantly predates Trump and his ilk.

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