What you need to know about the call to abolish ICE

AFSC joins with people across the country in calling for the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—and we hope you will join us. 

ICE has a long history of separating families and terrorizing our communities—it’s time to stop its abuses once and for all.

Here's what you need to know about the call to abolish ICE:


What is ICE and what does it do? 

ICE was created in 2003 as part of the U.S. government’s response to 9/11 that included mass surveillance, racial profiling, and militarism. As part of the Department of Homeland Security, ICE is positioned to treat immigrants as a security threat—not as people who are part of our communities. 

ICE’s purpose is to detain and deport immigrants, which tears apart families and communities across the U.S. In fiscal year 2020, ICE deported an estimated 185,884 people and detained an average of 20,000 people every day—especially egregious considering the dangers posed by COVID-19 to people detained amid unsanitary conditions and receiving inadequate health care.

Today, ICE has an annual budget of $7.97 billion dollars—money that would be better spent if we invested in things that actually keep our communities safe, like education, health care, jobs, and infrastructure.


Why is AFSC calling to abolish ICE?

Photo: Pedro Rios/AFSC 

The very mission of ICE is at odds with values we hold dear—like treating all people with dignity and respect. An agency that was created to tear apart communities and was founded on the belief that mass deportations make our country safer cannot be reformed.  

Since its inception, ICE has routinely violated human rights. ICE agents and police officers colluding with ICE engage in racial profiling and warrantless searches, detain people without probable cause, and fabricate evidence.

ICE provides deadly substandard medical care to those in detention. In 2020, 21 people died in ICE custody—the highest level in 15 years. The agency has also been the subject of more than 1,200 complaints of sexual and physical abuse.  

Despite ICE’s long history of human rights violations, the agency has remained unaccountable to the courts, to our communities, and to Congress, which has repeatedly urged ICE to improve detention standards and address fiscal mismanagement—demands the agency has largely ignored.


Can ICE be abolished?

Yes. The idea of abolishing a government agency isn’t as radical as some may think. President Donald Trump himself proposed eliminating 19 government agencies when he took office. And various administrations have created and dissolved agencies to respond to changing needs and politics. 

Abolishing ICE is about demilitarizing our immigration system. We don't need an abusive police force to arrest people for their immigration status and deport them from our communities. ICE functions are harmful and unnecessary or could be performed by other agencies. 

The question shouldn’t be whether ICE can be abolished. Rather, how can we generate the political will to make that happen? 


What existed before ICE?

Before ICE was created, immigration enforcement was handled by Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). When DHS was created, INS was divided into three agencies: ICE, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Although INS had serious problems, the agency didn’t have as broad a mandate as ICE and CBP—nor nearly the same level of brutality.


What would replace ICE? 

Photo: Jon Krieg/AFSC

There are many alternatives to ICE, including legal services, social service provision, and other community-based programs. We don’t need to replace ICE with more militarized enforcement- our immigration policy should be grounded in human rights and should build on things we know can create safe, healthy, communities—resources that help everyone thrive, not tearing loved ones apart.


What can we do to stop ICE?

1. Urge our members of Congress to defund and dismantle ICE.

Congress holds the purse-strings and can simply stop funding ICE. Or, they could pass legislation to abolish the agency. Learn more about this campaign and contact Congress today.

2. While working to abolish ICE, we must also disrupt its abusive agenda wherever we can.

ICE relies on cooperation from local law enforcement to round up and detain immigrants. We can pressure cities, counties, states, and schools to stop helping ICE.

3. Support immigrants in our communities.

Volunteer and support efforts to provide legal services, know your rights trainings, and offer sanctuary in places of worship. Show up to witness or disrupt when ICE tries to tear members of our communities from us. Learn more about AFSC’s work in these areas

Take part in Abolish ICE actions and protests in your community: Check out our toolkit to download Abolish ICE posters and graphics to share on social media.