Current Affairs

Jason Adam Katzenstein

Valentines to Melt Your ICE-y Heart

Happy Valentine’s Day! ICE still exists.

Sure, our immigration system has never been good, but did you know that many of the things that make it INSANELY EVIL are brand new! ICE was created in 2003. In 1994, we detained an average of 7,000 immigrants a year—now we detain as many as 500,000 a year. Families with children began to be routinely detained for the first time in 2014. Deportations have risen exponentially since the early 2000s, reaching their highest annual level during Obama’s second term.


Immigration detention centers are incredibly unsafe. Medical care is notoriously poor. Physical and sexual abuse is well-documented. COVID outbreaks in immigration jails, where social distancing is impossible, have been rampant and poorly monitored. 70 percent of detained immigrants are held in jails run by private corporations, whose entire business model is based on eking out profit from unnecessary human misery.


The Biden administration continues to lock up asylum-seeking children and families when they arrive in the United States. Currently, the longest-detained child in the U.S. has been locked up for a staggering 530+ days, but even much shorter periods in detention are psychologically damaging to children. Mass detention of children and families began under the Obama administration, and serves no useful function in the asylum screening process.


Many immigrants who enter through the southern border—assuming they don’t get stuck in indefinite detention—are forced to wear GPS ankle monitors for months, or years. These ankle monitors are notoriously uncomfortable, even painful, and socially stigmatizing. The devices are leased and serviced by—you guessed it!—private prison companies. They’re usually touted as a “humane” alternative to detention, but studies have shown no relationship between lower numbers in detention and the number of people forced into ankle monitors: it’s just better business for private corporations to maximize both practices at once!


So far, it’s not clear whether the Biden administration will continue the worst policies of the Trump administration. The Biden DOJ hasn’t yet dropped its opposition to lawsuits challenging Trump’s sweeping ban on asylum eligibility for people who approach the southern border. They’ve announced they intend to end the Remain in Mexico program that stranded tens of thousands of asylum seekers in dangerous border towns, but they haven’t said if they’ll grant any relief to people who’ve already suffered under the program. Also, the Biden administration has decided to continue implementing hugely overbroad “public health” policies that authorize Border Patrol to force asylum-seekers back over the border without any legal process—including unaccompanied children.

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