Nearly 20 Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigators are looking to dissolve the agency, worried that President Donald Trump's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy has made the agency a sort-of "deportation force."
In a letter sent last week to Kirstjen Nielsen, the homeland security secretary, the special agents suggested that Nielsen create a second bureau just for their investigations and another agency to handle immigration detention and deportations. They argued that Trump's crackdown on illegal immigration is limiting their ability to investigate serious crimes like drug-trafficking, cyber crimes and human trafficking.
Investigations "have been perceived as targeting undocumented aliens, instead of the transnational criminal organizations that facilitate cross border crimes impacting our communities and national security," wrote the agents from Homeland Security Investigations, which is a section of ICE.
The letter, first reported by The Texas Observer, was sent as a rising number of Democrats and immigration-rights advocates push for ICE, created after 9-11, to be abolished.
Last week, Representative Mark Pocan of Wisconsin introduced a bill to eliminate the agency. Representative Pamila Jayapal of Washington has announced her support for the move, as have 2020 presidential Democratic contenders Senators Kristen Gillibrand of New York and Kamala Harris of California.
In addition, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old Latina and political novice who took down Representative Joe Crowley of New York, one of the most powerful Democrats in Congress, in New York's 14th congressional district on Tuesday, made eliminating ICE a key piece of her political platform.
A senior ICE official told the New York Times there were "operational challenges raised in that letter that merit some discussion."
According to the New York Times, "Some agents in the investigations unit have said the Trump administration has prioritized ICE's deportations mission." Thomas D. Homan, the former acting director of ICE (Homan's last day on the job is Friday), has perhaps been the most vocal proponent of the Trump administration's get-tough immigration policy.
The Trump administration has come under intense scrutiny for its practice of separating immigrant children from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border, which Trump ended with an executive order last week.