Now You See The Brutality Of ICE, Help Us Abolish It | Opinion

If you were born before 2003, then you lived in an America without ICE, or Immigration Customs Enforcement. This agency is part of the surveillance state created by George W. Bush's "War on Terror," which used the tragedy of 9/11 to justify unprecedented expansion of federal power.

ICE agents have special authority from the Department of Justice to operate outside of the bounds of the Constitution, anywhere within 100 air miles from the U.S. border—including sea borders. It has over 20,000 employees in more than 400 offices across the United States, and an annual budget of $6 billion. It has also massively expanded the for-profit prison industry, which runs detentions centers rife with abuse.

Just like Bush's unjust, illegal and devastating war in Iraq, Americans should never have allowed ICE to be created in the first place. For over 15 years, the agency's power has been abused and continually expanded, forcing local governments to violate residents' Fourth Amendment rights, impeding local police efforts to effectively serve and protect immigrant neighborhoods, and targeting politicians and activists who challenge the agency's actions.

ICE agents have not only used unconstitutional tactics, but also deeply immoral methods to apprehend their targets. This includes waiting outside of schools to detain parents as they pick up their children, raiding near churches, and showing up to a courthouse to arrest a woman after she was granted a protective order for domestic abuse.

Sisters Nicole Edralin and Michelle Edralin from Highland Park, New Jersey, whose father Cloyd Edralin was apprehended by ICE agents, gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court as the court issued an immigration ruling June 26, 2018 in Washington, D.C. Win McNamee/Getty Images

ICE has regularly held people in indefinite detention without a hearing or access to a lawyer—a human rights violation that has resulted in long-term "disappearances" of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. They have detained U.S. citizens for no reason other than that they were overheard speaking Spanish.

This large and increasingly powerful federal police force now takes its directives straight from Donald Trump, who has never cloaked his contempt for immigrants and refugees from Spanish-speaking and Muslim-majority nations. Just like the Bush administration played on irrational fears of Muslims after 9/11 to justify its federal power grab, so too has Trump used dangerously dehumanizing rhetoric to justify the targeting of immigrants, calling them criminals, rapists, and even animals.

ICE is ramping up "zero-tolerance" deportation forces, criminalizing people for being born outside this country's borders and tearing families apart.

Last week nearly 600 women were arrested in our nation's Capitol protesting the detention of families and criminalization of immigrants. We sat down together on the floor of a Senate office building, young women and octogenarians together, pregnant women and mothers with their children, women in wheelchairs and deaf women, white and black and Latino and Asian, lesbians, genderqueer and trans women, all united in our outrage for the cruel zero-tolerance policies that are ripping children away from parents and criminalizing immigrants.

We covered ourselves in foil emergency blankets—just like the ones given to small children in Trump's child detention centers—and disrupted business-as-usual by singing songs for justice and chanting for an end to the federal agency known as ICE, which is inflicting terror on people, families and communities across our country.

GettyImages-973077552 (1)
A two-year-old Honduran asylum seeker cries as her mother is searched and detained near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. John Moore/Getty Images

For years, the communities on our southern border and Muslim communities who have been directly targeted have called for the abolition of ICE, but we alone have not been a sufficient enough force to stop the terror. Now that the sheer brutality of this agency has been exposed on the national news, now that we've all seen photos we can't forget and heard the sounds of children's despair haunting our ears—all of us need to get on the same page and stop it.

It's time to abolish ICE.

This is a defining moral moment for our nation, and if you haven't already, it is time to ask yourself what you want to be able to tell your grandchildren when they ask how you felt and what you did when these terrible violations of human dignity and family integrity were occurring. I hope that you will be able to tell them you were one of hundreds of thousands of women who rose up and would not back down, who stayed in the streets day after day, across the nation, until things changed. Perhaps one day, history will look back in remembrance of the courageous activism of women who fought to abolish the terrorizing force known as ICE, and you will be able to proudly say, "I was one of the people who bent the arc towards justice and humanity."

Linda Sarsour is a racial justice and civil rights activist, community organizer, and mother of three. She is Executive Director of MPower Change, and was one of the co-chairs of the Women's March on Washington and a board member of The Women's March organization.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​​​