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Thursday, January 27, 2022

Memo orders ICE and CBP to stop using offensive term, but agencies still remain threat to families

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“The new guidance mirrors an earlier change in language at U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency in charge of legal immigration,” the report continued. President Joe Biden’s proposed immigration overhaul further includes a provision that would strike the term “alien” in immigration law, also replacing it with the term “noncitizen.” The changes are supported by advocates like Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro, who told NBC News “[t]he term ‘alien’ is used as a dehumanizing slur, and should be removed from the language in our statutes.” 

Words matter, and this is an important change. Unfortunately, it represents only a sliver of the things that have been wrong and continue to be wrong with problematic agencies like CBP and ICE. In just one example, only four of the more than 140 border agents who were investigated for their participation in a violent and racist Facebook group were fired. Former Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost admitted to Congress that she was a part of the horrific group but claimed she had no idea it was such a group. She retired earlier last year. 

That would seem good, right? Except that her replacement, Rodney Scott, was reportedly also a member of the group. President Biden has kept Scott in the role, even as the Los Angeles Times reported in February that the Border Patrol chief was named in an international human rights case court filing accusing officials of covering up the killing of a Mexican migrant at the southern border in 2010.

“Agents have maintained connections to the white supremacist movement,” the American Immigration Council said earlier this year. Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel with the organization, tweeted in February that “[a]s expected, officials at the Border Patrol/DHS are now leaking to Breitbart since they don’t have the bully pulpit.” That tweet was in response to an anti-immigrant hate group tweeting out a border post by the rag. But it’s not just Scott. The Biden administration has also kept the previous president’s acting ICE director, Tae Johnson, in his role too.

In ICE’s case, an investigation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lasting nearly seven months found that private prison profiteer GEO Group violated the law by misusing a toxic pesticide that sickened immigrants detained at a private immigration prison in southern California and left them with nosebleeds, burning eyes, and breathing issues, the Los Angeles Times reported. Earthjustice said that because staffers and detained people at Adelanto Detention Facility were forced to apply the toxic pesticide “several times a day over a nine-year period,” GEO Group carried out potentially tens of thousands of violations.

Newsweek’s Adrian Carrasquillo reported earlier this year that when voting in favor of the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which encompasses ICE, then-Sen. Biden said in a floor speech in 2002 that bill would likely “need to be revisited several times and its implementation will need to be closely monitored by Congress if we hope to get it right.” Legislators like Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva have said that oversight is long overdue.

Carrasquillo reported that a number of Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate, including one elected official who represents the southern border region, have called for the Biden administration to clamp down on the agency, including giving leadership and staff who’ve felt unaccountable the boot. “Asked if reforming the agency included a change in leadership and firings, Grijalva said ‘absolutely,’” the report said.


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