Your Guide to the Abolish ICE Movement

Why should we abolish ICE? How can we abolish ICE? What do we do after we’ve abolished ICE? And how do I get my friends and family to support abolishing ICE?

These are the questions people have been asking after the movement to abolish ICE gained a groundswell of support. Abolishing ICE is now part of the national conversation, supported by anywhere from grassroots organizations to elected politicians.

Created in 2003 as a part of the government’s response to 9/11, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is a shadowy agency steeped in a history of mass surveillance, racism, and militarism. Currently, the agency has an annual budget of roughly $6 billion, and it views immigrants as a threat to our country and communities, rather than as human beings. While the Abolish ICE movement has been around for some time, it recently was catapulted into the mainstream dialogue after reports that the agency was forcibly separating migrant children from their parents – many of whom may never be reunited. And because this cause is fairly nascent in the public conscious, many people are rightfully trying to learn more about what it all means.

The resources below address many of the common questions about why to abolish ICE, how to abolish ICE, and what comes after it is abolished.

Why is it time to abolish ICE?

This article in the Guardian addresses the issue of why it’s time to Abolish ICE from both a personal and analytical approach. The author, Amy Gottlieb, has seen the ramifications of ICE tearing families apart up close, due to her husband facing the possibility of deportation. Below is an excerpt:

There were more than 143,000 immigration arrests in 2017, a 41% increase from the previous year. Rather than using discretion to allow people to remain in the US, Ice ignores things like humanitarian need, family and community ties, and letters of support. Instead people are methodically and heartlessly torn away from their homes, often in the middle of the night…

Many people across the country have seen Ice’s destructive practices and have called for reforms. Both my personal and professional experiences have led me to believe that this is not sufficient. There is no fix for an agency that was designed to tear apart families and communities and with very little oversight or accountability. There is no reforming an organization based on the idea that mass deportations make us safer. Ice itself must be abolished…

Suggesting the abolition of a government agency may seem like a radical idea, but it’s actually not that uncommon. Donald Trump himself proposed eliminating 19 government agencies in his first federal budget blueprint, even though those agencies actually benefited our communities. Both Democrats and Republicans have proposed eliminating the Commerce Department. And dozens of federal agencies have been created and dissolved as conditions and politics have changed over time.

It’s not a question of whether Ice can be abolished, but of how we can generate the political will to make it happen.

Read the whole thing on The Guardian.

What does it mean to abolish ICE?

The progressive stalwart magazine The Nation examined what people mean when they say “Abolish ICE,” and how, like any movement, there’s a range of opinions. Especially because many people are only starting to grapple with the idea now, some of those opinions differ widely. Still, that shouldn’t stop people from working towards the common goal, whether from an organizing perspective or a policy perspective, while at the same time having the important conversations of what it would take to abolish ICE and what would happen once it’s abolished. Below is an excerpt:

As in any movement, there are ideological differences… Activists and advocates who were willing to comment made clear that, while “Abolish ICE” has moved into the mainstream, people mean very different things when they wield those two powerful words…

Ever since the agency was created,” Shah told me, “there’s been no question that its role has been to terrorize immigrants.” ICE was formed in 2003 in a post-9/11 frenzy. The George W. Bush administration moved immigration enforcement from an agency called the Immigration and Naturalization Service, overseen by the Department of Justice, to the newly created ICE underneath the Department of Homeland Security, itself a post-9/11 creation. Such maneuvers were more than a bureaucratic rearrangement.

In its new iteration, ICE and other sub-agencies in the Department of Homeland Security like Customs and Border Protection had access to more funding, personnel, and technological resources. Since its creation, ICE’s annual budget has grown 85 percent, from $3.3 billion 2003 to $6.1 billion in 2016. In those 13 years, ICE has tripled the number of agents it employs. What’s more, programs like 287(g) and Secure Communities that granted police and sheriffs broad powers to enforce federal immigration violations extended ICE’s tentacles deep into immigrant communities…

ICE relies on terror to detain immigrants for prosecution and deportation. The agency is authorized to knock on people’s doors to snatch fathers from their children. It has issued threats to those who supposedly have deportation deferrals against them. It has targeted outspoken undocumented immigrants.

Read the whole thing in The Nation.

Image: People holding a free our future banner.

How do we abolish ICE?

This article in the outlet Documented was written before the 2018 mid-term elections, which included the uspet win in New York by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who had made abolishing ICE part of her platform, and helped push the conversation even further into the mainstream. The article includes the views and strategies, sometimes differing, of two then candidates for congress in New York on how to abolish ICE. (Suraj Patel, the second candidate, did not win his election bid.)

Below is a brief excerpt:

Both said that all undocumented people with a clean record should be left alone, and given a path to citizenship. “Because of our history with immigration and because the laws on the books are unjust, I think that we should create a viable path to citizenship, where people can earn a place in this country,” said Ocasio-Cortez.

Read the full piece on Documentedny.com.

What do we do instead of ICE?

Okay, but how exactly do we build a movement to abolish ICE, and what do we do when ICE has been abolished? Mijente, an organization that is “a new political home for Latinx & Chicanx organizing,” put together a crucial, informative, and powerful policy platform that explains exactly what an immigration policy rooted in social justice and equity would look like – Free our Future: An Immigration Policy Platform for Beyond the Trump Era. Below is an excerpt:

Our demands have one central goal – to abolish ICE so that immigrant communities can live with dignity. Our vision will continue to evolve in the months and years to come, but we remain grounded in a commitment to free our future. We refuse to propose solutions that only help some immigrants, dividing our communities between those labeled “deserving” of humanitarian reform, and those who will be left in the system of immigration enforcement, detention, and incarceration…

Ultimately, we need to make it politically impossible for Congress to continue to support immigration enforcement. We need to defund ICE, and we need legislation that dismantles the agency. There’s already movement: at least 21 Democratic congressional primary candidates have come out in favor of abolishing the agency. Over 100 members of Congress called for cutting ICE’s budget this year. A group of activists in Portland shut down an ICE office by camping outside it and refusing to leave. People everywhere are pushing their local government to refuse cooperation with ICE. Businesses are being outed and shamed by their own employees for contracting with ICE. The agency’s spokespeople are turning into whistleblowers. The heads of ICE and DHS are being followed and hounded by everyday people demanding their resignation.

Read the full policy platform on their website.

Can I get a video overview of why we should abolish ICE?

Sure! In that case, it’s time for something a little different. Below is a clip from Full Frontal, hosted by Samantha Bee on TBS. Full Frontal is a comedy half-hour news program. So definitely be prepared for swear words and a comedic (and painful) examination of the issue.

How can I convince my friends and family that we need to abolish ICE?

Here’s another take that has a somewhat comedic spin, in the form of a lengthy social media post. Of course, social media is so prevalent, and so we thought a resource that was specifically designed for that platform would be good to include.  This is a long Facebook post, meant for sharing, but is also highly informative. It takes on, and deconstructs, each of the core arguments that have been raised to argue against the abolishing ICE – with both jokes and facts. Give it a read, then maybe a share.


What will keep happening if we don’t abolish ICE?

The legacy and ramifications of ICE on generations of people is an issue that has recently returned to the limelight. But in truth, it was an issue that never went away.

It has become clear that families are still being separated – despite the previous public outcry – and children are being kept in unspeakably inhuman conditions within government detention facilities. Here are some excerpts from an interview with a lawyer monitoring these detention facilities:

The conditions the lawyers found were shocking: flu and lice outbreaks were going untreated, and children were filthy, sleeping on cold floors, and taking care of each other because of the lack of attention from guards. Some of them had been in the facility for weeks…

When we arrived, on Monday, there were approximately three hundred and fifty children there. They were constantly receiving children, and they’re constantly picking up children and transferring them over to an O.R.R. [Office of Refugee Resettlement] site. So the number is fluid. We were so shocked by the number of children who were there, because it’s a facility that only has capacity for a hundred and four. And we were told that they had recently expanded the facility…

And then we started to pull the children who had been there the longest to find out just how long children are being kept there. Children described to us that they’ve been there for three weeks or longer. And so, immediately from that population that we were trying to triage, they were filthy dirty, there was mucus on their shirts, the shirts were dirty. We saw breast milk on the shirts. There was food on the shirts, and the pants as well. They told us that they were hungry. They told us that some of them had not showered or had not showered until the day or two days before we arrived. Many of them described that they only brushed their teeth once. This facility knew last week that we were coming. The government knew three weeks ago that we were coming…

Many of the children reported sleeping on the concrete floor. They are being given army blankets, those wool-type blankets that are really harsh. Most of the children said they’re being given two blankets, one to put beneath them on the floor. Some of the children are describing just being given one blanket and having to decide whether to put it under them or over them because there is air-conditioning at this facility. And so they’re having to make a choice about, Do I try to protect myself from the cement, or do I try to keep warm?

Almost every child that we interviewed had a parent or relative in the United States. Many of them had parents in the United States and were coming here to be with their parents. Some of the children that we interviewed had been separated from their parents. Most of them were separated from other adult relatives. Almost all the children came across with an adult family member and were separated from them by the Border Patrol.

Read the whole thing on The New Yorker.

Where can we donate?

The following organizations are doing amazing work to support the lives and rights of immigrants and migrants affected by ICE and the US’s current immigration policy. Supporting their work will go a long way.

  • RAICES: “RAICES is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency that promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees.”
  • Families Belong Together: “Families Belong Together includes nearly 250 organizations representing Americans from all backgrounds who have joined together to fight family separation and promote dignity, unity, and compassion for all children and families.”

What did we miss?

There are probably more wonderful resources, tools, videos, articles, and beyond that would make great additions to study guide for understanding the abolish ICE movement. If there’s something you think that should be added, send us a message using the form below!

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Non-TESA images shared via Creative Commons license Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0), by user Fibonacci Blue on Flickr.

Support Our Work

TESA is proud to lead the development of games, tools, and programs for social change. You can support our work while having fun: buy our games about changing the world. TESA can also work with you to build a game, program, or tool for your cause!