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ICE priorities put us all at risk

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    A few facts to start off with.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) now has more than 20,000 employees in more than 400 offices in the United States and 46 foreign countries. The agency has an annual budget of approximately $6 billion, primarily devoted to two operational directorates.*

In 2016, ICE conducted 235,413 removals. Fifty-nine percent of all ICE removals, or 139,368, were previously convicted of a crime.**

An estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants are living in the United States.***

At the rate of 235,413 removals per year, it would take nearly 79 years to remove all the 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. today. (Other estimates suggest there are many more illegal immigrants than that.) If we quadrupled that rate, it would take nearly 20 years to remove them.

Let’s say we weren’t using our ICE workers efficiently and we could make them twice as effective by changing assignments and priorities. Then let’s say we doubled the staff. Now for $12 billion per year, we could remove our current illegal immigrant population in 20 years.

But is that worth doing? Are all 235,000 plus immigrants a negative impact upon our society? We would suggest not.

The president and the anti-immigrant crowd always hold up the worst examples of immigrants to build their arguments. But while we agree that the worst of the worst immigrants should go, we think there’s an even better way to find who law enforcement should focus on.

We think there should be a hierarchy of crimes and criminals and that our law enforcement should focus on that hierarchy when deciding how to spend limited resources on apprehending criminals. (We actually think this isn’t a unique idea in that we believe law enforcement is and would continue to do this without outside interference).

So if murder, rape and battery are the worst crimes, the most resources should be spent on capturing those types of criminals. They should be the highest priority. (Your list may be different, but we bet that forged driver’s licenses used by teenagers to get into bars, speeding and littering aren’t at the top of anyone’s list.) But given the large numbers of those worst crimes and the large numbers of perpetrators of those crimes who are on the loose in society, we believe there should be limited effort spent to arrest more minor criminals just because they are in the country illegally. But some argue that people living here illegally are repeat offenders. We would argue that hard-core criminals of any nationality are more likely to be repeat offenders. So once again, we believe that putting law enforcement resources into capturing the most dangerous criminals before focusing on those guilty of less dangerous crimes makes more sense.

So if the choice is to pursue a person here illegally who gunned down four people or a U.S. citizen who has refused to pay a traffic ticket, we would be all in favor of pursuing the murderer. But likewise, if the U.S. citizen gunned down four people, we would not want to let that person remain at large while our law enforcement spent large amounts of time and money pursuing traffic ticket warrants. Which makes our neighborhoods safer?

In Arizona the first to be deported was a woman who came to the U.S. at 14, found a way to get a job and support two children. But to do so, Guadalupe García de Rayos had to have a Social Security number. Using that fake Social Security number made her a criminal. But she surely wasn’t a serious threat to our country, she just wanted to earn a living doing manual labor at a water park.

Maybe law enforcement should spend more time on criminals such as Jason Derek Brown. He is wanted for murder and armed robbery in Phoenix. During November of 2004, Brown allegedly shot and killed an armored car guard outside a movie theater and then fled with the money according to the FBI website. We’d feel much safer with Garcia de Rayos living next door to us than Brown.

So to try to focus on border crossers may make our neighborhoods less safe. And the reality is it is nearly impossible to remove 11 million illegal immigrants from this country regardless of how much money is spent and how many more ICE officers we hire.

* Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). (



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