Ice Must Answer for Its Horrific Human Rights Abuses



Adya Jha, Online Staff Writer

For the past few weeks, students at PDS may have noticed an increasing number of people sharing stories through social media of mass hysterectomies and degrading living conditions in ICE detention facilities. The growing wave of dissent and opposition against detainees’ mistreatment by ICE has extended far beyond the digital realm. As more horrific stories come to light, it is clear that the nation must come to terms with ICE’s aggressive and poor treatment of immigrants and question the original intent of an organization founded in hate and division. 

ICE, or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is a federal government agency that was founded in 2003. Formed in the shadow of the devastating September 11 attacks, it has developed a reputation for its hostile removal tactics and practices of targeting undocumented immigrants. ICE is by no means the first time immigrants were prevented from coming into the United States, though. Upper School history teacher Ms. Santangelo pointed out, “Since the formation of the U.S., its relationship to and with immigrants has been strained, with the first anti-immigration bill enacted in 1798. Over time, policies emerged to limit the arrival of some immigrants and barring entry to others altogether.”

 It is important to note that ICE has strayed quite far from its original purposes. Many have begun to describe it as President Donald Trump’s “personal deportation force” due to the hundreds of thousands of people deported under his administration. PDS senior Will Sedgley noted, “I feel like the actual premise of ICE for illegal immigration purposes is not harmful, and I think that people forget that Obama also deported a ton of people.” However, though the Obama administration deported more people than Trump, it is essential to bear in mind that Obama emphasized removing undocumented immigrants who had recently arrived or who had criminal convictions, while Trump has enforced a zero-tolerance policy, impacting a lot of innocent immigrants who have built lives in the United States. In addition, the Trump administration has attempted to terminate the bulwark immigration policy Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals several times and has encouraged mass deportation raids in cities, sowing fear and anxiety among immigrant populations in the U.S. 

ICE’s humanitarian record has been notoriously spotty. With prominent human rights organizations such as the Human Rights Watch and the ACLU condemning it for being, as Co-Chair of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition Katie Adams put it, “one of the principal abusers of human rights in [the] U.S,” and with tens of thousands of people residing in detention centers on any given day, reports have emerged describing gross civil rights violations. Among these, stories of officers beating detainees, rampant sexual and physical assault, separated families, degrading conditions in living facilities, and allegations of female detainees’ forced sterilization are all too familiar. ICE’s neglect of its detainees must not be ignored, as it directly infringes on the fundamental human rights of those held in detention centers. 

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency was created to separate “us” from “them.” Though this practice is not unique to today’s time period, and the US has a long history of barring entry to those who do not fit the “American” mold, it is becoming increasingly apparent that ICE’s abuses of the constitutional and humanitarian rights of detainees set a dangerous precedent for the rest of the nation. For now, the future of illegal immigrants in ICE detention centers is uncertain, with their humanity and voices denied. Still, one of the core principles of American democracy is the emphasis on individual voices and the powerful change a single person has the potential to make. If the American promise is still alive and well, common citizens should use their voices to amplify the ones of those who the system has attempted to silence.