Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents have been emboldened by President Donald Trump — but not all of them are entirely comfortable with the direction the agency’s headed.
One agent agreed to let The New Yorker publish some of his comments questioning the Trump administration’s policies and their influence on the agents who enforce them.
“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 the magazine on condition of anonymity. “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.”
The agent was a critic of former President Barack Obama, whom he saw as a micromanager, but he said agents are abandoning standards and protocols under Trump.
“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.”
The agent agreed to allow his comments to be published after learning ICE wanted to crack down on younger undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. in recent years as unaccompanied minors.
“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.”
ICE is allowing investigations of family members who may have paid smugglers to bring their children into the country, and the agent said the new policy is intended as a trap.
“We seem to be targeting the most vulnerable people, not the worst,” he said. “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 what’s happening at the agency is outside the normal realm.
“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.”