When writing about immigration, which I do a lot here at Daily Kos, I have generally tried to avoid using images like the one above. That image is an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)-branded photo depicting agents at the front door of a home. Two officers in the image are wearing clothing with the words “police” and “ICE.”
The reason why I have generally tried to avoid this image is because that wording is intentionally misleading. ICE agents are not police officers, but they wear this branding anyway to confuse immigrants they’re seeking. They know immigrants will be more likely to open the door if they believe the uniformed person knocking at their door is a police officer.
This practice is abhorrent, but apparently not unlawful. “There is nothing illegal about ICE agents simply identifying themselves as police officers while standing outside someone’s front door,” The Los Angeles Times reported in 2017. Lawmakers have recently introduced legislation that would make it illegal, for both ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents, to use such branding.
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“Advocates warn that ICE agents, by displaying the word ‘police’ on their uniforms, routinely cause confusion between their authority and that of local law enforcement, which can result in immigrants allowing federal agents to enter their homes without a warrant,” said a release from New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker. He’s reintroduced the Combating Deceptive Immigration Enforcement Practices Act. New York Rep. Nydia Velázquez is set to introduce a House companion as well, the office said.
The 2017 Los Angeles Times report cited an incident from 2008 when ICE agents falsely identified themselves as police to the mother of a man they were looking for. When she opened the door, they showed her a picture of another man, “[f]earing that she wouldn’t let them in if they showed her a photo of her son.” The report said that they “gave differing accounts in court of whether she consented,” but knowing that ICE lies to everyone from Congress on down, I believe the woman.
Once inside, the agents detained a completely different person from the one they were looking for. Reminder: If ICE agents don’t have a signed judicial warrant they can show you through a peephole or window, you do not have to let them in.
“The judge in the case found that even if the woman did agree to allow the agents inside, as they claimed, they had misled her so thoroughly it rendered her consent meaningless and violated the Constitution’s protections against warrantless searches and seizures,” The Los Angeles Times continued. “The judge did not allow any statements or other evidence the agents gathered in the house to be used against the man in his trial.”
The report further noted that ICE agents falsely represented themselves as police officers in video released by the agency itself. “'Good morning, police,' one agent announced in the pre-dawn darkness. A man opened the door moments later. 'Good morning, how you doing? I'm a police officer. We're doing an investigation,' the agent said." It is very much intentional, folks.
“When ICE agents display the word ‘police’ on their uniforms, they blur the line between local law enforcement and immigration agents and confuse immigrant communities,” Booker said in the release. “Any attempt by immigration officers to deceivingly pose as local police ought to be prohibited, and that’s why I’m proud to partner with Senator Booker on this legislation,” Velázquez said. “I’ve seen firsthand the negative impacts that these bad-faith tactics of ICE bring to our communities and it certainly doesn’t make things any safer.”
Immigrant Defense Project and Center for Constitutional Rights have previously noted ICE agents tricking immigrants in the New York area. “In 2015, ICE agents came to the door of a home in Westchester, NY,” a report said. “The agents wore shirts with the word ‘police’ on them and identified as police. They showed a photograph of a stranger to gain entry to the house.” That same year, a 13-year-old girl opened the door for ICE agents who were wearing misleading “police” vests. The jackets are a problem, yes, but its also clear the problems at ICE go way beyond the uniforms.