In 2002, following the September 11 terrorist attacks, Democrats and Republicans alike came together to enhance our national security and provide the tools to law enforcement to do everything in their power to prevent such a horrible tragedy from ever occurring again.
The Homeland Security Act, which included the formation of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), was a rare and refreshing moment of bipartisan unity on a policy issue of significant consequence — earning an overwhelming 90 votes in the United States Senate.
Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, John Kerry, even Chuck Schumer, all voted “yes.”
How far we’ve come.
Politicians are playing games with ICE
Today, collapsing this agency has become an election year rallying cry for opportunistic politicians. And the list signing up for this misguided approach is growing.
Elizabeth Warren. Kirsten Gillibrand. Bill de Blasio. The New York City mayor recently said: “ICE’s time has come and gone… We should abolish ICE.”
As a border state governor who wakes up every day and goes to sleep every night with the safety and security of Arizona citizens at the top of mind, I want to be clear — this call to abolish ICE is not only wrong — it is reckless, and puts the people of my state and others in direct threat.
To know why, you need only spend a day in Cochise County, Arizona.
ICE keeps us all safe
There, this isn’t a political debate — it’s real life. The impact of illegal drug cartels, human trafficking, and child sex trafficking on communities and families is real and raw. In border communities like this, law enforcement isn’t the enemy — they are a lifeline. Sheriffs and police chiefs are crying for help, and unfortunately they are too often ignored by Congress and much of Washington, D.C.
But whether it’s Border Patrol, the National Guard or ICE agents — these brave men and women are making these communities and our country safer.
Last year alone, ICE agents arrested nearly 5,000 members of violent gangs. In one massive and significant 2017 bust, ICE arrested 1,378 individuals across the country — U.S. citizens included — who were engaged in organized and illegal drug trafficking, weapons smuggling, human trafficking, racketeering, and even murder.
Their work has national implications. As our country grapples with the opioid epidemic, ICE agents are on the front lines, seizing 2,370 pounds of fentanyl last year. For context, according to the DEA, as little as two milligrams is a lethal dosage for most people. In total, they kept 31.5 million hits of heroin off our streets — everywhere from Nogales, Arizona to, yes, New York City.
Just like our police officers, first responders, and members of the armed forces, these professionals are regularly putting their lives on the line to protect our country and do their jobs. The last thing we should be doing is launching political attacks at these fine men and women. Instead, we should be thanking them and applauding them for all they do.
For Arizonans, border security is critical. And that’s because, at the end of the day, it’s about national security. That's something we should all be able to agree on, no matter our party affiliation.
This September will mark 17 years since 9/11. Let us hope our country and our leaders in Washington can channel even just a bit of the unity and bipartisanship that inspired the strengthening of our security and borders, and end these extreme and misguided calls to abolish ICE.
If they don’t, we should all dread the consequences.