Right-wing media are defending ICE from calls to abolish the inhumane agency. Here are 30 examples of its abusive practices.

Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

Right-wing media figures are falling over themselves to defend U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after fervent calls for the agency’s abolition. Activists and immigrant communities have been pushing back against ICE’s abuses for years, but recently, opposition to the agency has gained momentum on Twitter (under the moniker #AbolishICE) and has grown increasingly mainstream. Progressive organizations, politicians, and even some ICE agents themselves have endorsed the movement. And on July 12, some progressive Democrats introduced a bill in the House or Representatives to defund the agency within one year.

Proponents of defunding ICE point to the relatively young agency’s draconian and callous handling of immigration policy, as well as a laundry list of instances of despicable abuse and neglect. Under President Donald Trump, the agency has grown increasingly emboldened and lawless. Since Trump took office, ICE arrests have skyrocketed, especially of immigrants who have no criminal records or who have been convicted of low-level offenses like traffic violations. It arrests people who are reporting crimes and who are victims of violence. The agency now routinely detains and deports immigrants who have lived in the United States for decades. It also often arrests and detains people who are legally allowed to reside in the United States, including U.S. citizens and immigrants protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Agents are regularly accused of breaking the law by invading homes without producing a warrant and allegedly arresting people in off-limits areas. Nevertheless, right-wing media have proved unmoved by stories of ICE’s terrible impact on immigrant communities and have instead become cheerleaders for the agency in recent months.

On June 28, Fox News’ entire prime-time lineup attacked the Abolish ICE movement. Tucker Carlson -- who routinely uses his platform to promote white nationalism -- opened his show by complaining that Democratic candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory in a New York congressional primary marked an “ideological revolution on the left” because she “ran on abolishing ICE.” Carlson went on to fearmonger that criminals and drugs would flood the country in the agency’s absence. During the next hour, Sean Hannity suggested that attacks on ICE are merely an effort by “people on the left” to distract from the fact that special counsel Robert Mueller has unearthed “zero evidence” of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 elections. Following Hannity’s program, Laura Ingraham, who has a long history of attacking and mocking immigrants, accused the protesters of the Abolish ICE movement of making it “impossible for our immigration investigators to do their jobs.” The next day, Fox & Friends hosted Thomas Homan, then-acting director of ICE, who said that he’s been “sickened the last couple of months about the attack on ICE officers,” arguing that anti-ICE protesters “should be respecting law enforcement across the board,” including ICE agents.

More recently, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs has claimed that if ICE were abolished, there would be “one-and-a-half million criminal illegal immigrants released into society.” Fox News’ Dagen McDowell suggested that those who wish to abolish the agency “are not for the rule of law and they are for child trafficking and human trafficking, things that ICE fight.” Her Fox colleague Brian Kilmeade argued that ICE is “just enforcing the laws that are on the books” and questioned whether the Abolish ICE movement was making law enforcement officers into  “the bad guys” Fox & Friends’ Todd Pirro claimed that in addition to “protect[ing] the citizens of the U.S.,” ICE also “protect[s] the illegal immigrants trying to cross our borders from things like rape, murder, human trafficking.” Fox News’ America’s Newsroom hosted Homan, who claimed that ICE is “hitting on all cylinders” and bragged that the agency’s  “detainers are up 80 percent,” its “arrests are up 40 percent,” and its “removals are up 40 percent.” Co-host Sandra Smith failed to question him about the agency’s misconduct.

In reality, ICE terrorizes immigrant communities, tearing apart families and forcing immigrants to live lives of fear and instability. There are thousands of nightmarish stories about the consequences of ICE’s actions. Here are just some of the myriad abuses committed by the agency that right-wing media are scrambling to appease and defend:

  • ICE has targeted people who report domestic abuse to U.S. authorities. On one occasion, the agency arrested a woman and her 16-year-old son as they arrived for the son’s testimony against his mother’s ex-fiance. Agents removed them from the courthouse, leaving behind the women’s 2-year-old son. Targeting people who report domestic abuse will inevitably lead to undocumented people foregoing reports of abuse altogether.

  • Thousands of immigrants have reported experiencing sexual abuse while in detention, and half of those complaints have named ICE employees as abusers.  

  • The agency is trying to make it easier to detain pregnant immigrants, even though multiple pregnant people have suffered miscarriages after receiving insufficient care in ICE custody.

  • ICE has repeatedly taken caregivers away from children and sick people.

    • A California couple who died in a car crash while fleeing ICE agents left behind six children. Later, agents realized they been pursuing the wrong man. ICE then deported the children’s uncle, who had taken them in and has four kids of his own.

    • In Michigan, a father who serves as the sole caregiver to his sick wife was forced to take refuge at a church after being targeted for deportation.

    • ICE deported the “sole provider and trained medical caregiver of a 6-year-old paraplegic boy.”

    • Children often end up in foster care after ICE deports their parents or guardians.

  • ICE routinely arrests and detains the most vulnerable.

    • A 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy was on her way to a hospital in an ambulance to receive emergency gallbladder surgery when ICE officials apprehended her.

    • Agents arrested a 28-year-old man with Down syndrome and held him away from his family.

  • ICE has been responsible for numerous deaths.

  • ICE has been accused of committing or allowing acts of violence and abuse.

    • When one man refused to enter an airport to be deported because he feared for his life if he returned to his native Central African Republic, agents allegedly struck him on the legs with a baton, cut his seat belt, and dragged him to his flight handcuffed to a wheelchair. (The airline refused to take him and he was returned to his cell.)

    • In a 2017 lawsuit, Somali immigrants alleged that agents “kicked, punched, choked, and dragged” them down the aisles of a plane as they were being deported. (The plane never made it to Somalia and returned because of logistical problems.)

    • A group of immigrants have claimed that while in ICE detention they were treated like “animal[s].”

    • ICE officers reportedly broke an immigration attorney’s foot and then detained her.

  • ICE agents readily mock their terrified victims, and target their dissenters.

    • In one instance, ICE agents arrested a DACA recipient and reportedly told her family that under Trump, DACA “doesn’t exist anymore.”

    • During a raid on a San Francisco home, an agent mocked residents when they asked to see a warrant, telling them, “You’re watching too many movies.”

    • ICE allegedly targets immigration activists, along with those who speak to the press. ICE has also detained a journalist who was arrested while he was doing his job.  

  • ICE makes it impossible for immigrants to live stable or productive lives by targeting their jobs and other public places for raids.

    • ICE agents reportedly ate breakfast at a Michigan restaurant before detaining three members of the staff.

    • About 30 immigrants were forced to fearfully quit their jobs and lose their source of income after an ICE agent visited the restaurant where they worked and demanded to see employment eligibility forms.

    • More than 500 students were kept home from school after ICE raided a Tennessee meatpacking plant and arrested nearly 100 people.

    • Two men in New Jersey were arrested while dropping their children off at school, while a third man was able to avoid detention only by taking refuge in a church.

    • ICE arrested a 48-year-old father of four, who had lived in the United states for 25 years, after he dropped his youngest daughter off at school. In a video of the arrest, his other daughter can be heard sobbing in the car.

    • One man was detained by ICE after appearing at scheduled meeting with an immigration official to obtain a green card. His daughter noted that he “filed all the necessary paperwork, paid all the fees, hired a lawyer, did everything in his power to obtain lawful status and he was tricked and brought into the office and detained.” This is not the first time ICE has targeted people seeking legal status with immigration officials.

    • ICE routinely makes arrests at courthouses, making it impossibly risky for immigrants to pursue legal problems, serve as witnesses, or answer warrants.

    • ICE agents are reportedly interrogating worshippers as they go to church about their immigration status.

  • ICE has also been on the forefront of the Trump administration’s war against people seeking immigration and asylum at the southern border, aiding U.S. Customs and Border Patrol in the kidnapping and detention of children.

    • ICE reportedly provides parents who have been separated from their children with a useless telephone number where the operators do not have any information on the children.

    • The agency has attempted to pressure asylum seekers into “voluntary” deportation by claiming it’s the only way they will be reunited with their children.