NY Congresswoman Wants ICE Officers To Stop Calling Themselves Police (VIDEO)

Last week, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) introduced a bill that would bar Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents from displaying anything on their clothing identifying them as police.

ICE agents wear jackets and vests labeled “POLICE ICE.” When they arrive at homes searching for undocumented immigrants, they frequently identify themselves as police officers.

However, some immigration attorneys argue this practice is unethical and borderline illegal. Rep. Velázquez agrees the practice is “deceptive” since it could discourage people from reporting crimes to local police for fear they’ll be handed over to federal authorities and deported.

In a piece by the Washington Post, Velázquez said:

“It could trick families into opening their doors to agents from ICE without a warrant. There’s not going to be a lot of trust between the police and the communities.”

Although not a new problem, Velázquez said it is becoming worse because of revisions to deportation policies and anti-immigrant rhetoric associated with the Trump administration.

She said:

“No one can dispute the fact that hate crimes and hate rhetoric have increased since Donald Trump made it to the White House. You didn’t see that when Obama was in the White House. Yes, Obama deported a high number of undocumented people … but we didn’t see that kind of fear.”

The Trump administration has emboldened ICE agents to more aggressively pursue and detain undocumented immigrants. For example, a memo issued by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly delineates broad new guidelines designed to crack down on illegal immigration. Velázquez’s bill would amend a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act to check Homeland Security’s authority.

Police departments all over the country are supporting this action. In February, Los Angeles city leaders wrote a letter to ICE’s deputy field office director David Marin, demanding agents stop referring to themselves as police officers.

The letter states:

“In Los Angeles, the term ‘police’ is synonymous with the Los Angeles Police Department, so for ICE agents to represent themselves as police misleads the public into believing they are interacting with LAPD. This is especially corrosive given that to advance public safety, LAPD does not initiate police action with the objective of determining a person’s immigration status.”

Hartford, Conn. Police Chief James Rovella said in a statement:

“All law enforcement officials, not acting in an undercover capacity, working in our community should be readily identified by the agencies that they represent. ICE agents should not identify as local police as it is misleading and can damage the important relationship with our local communities.”

Javier H. Valdes, a co-executive director of Make the Road New York, a local nonprofit organization that assists Latinos, said:

“Having the word ‘police’ on their vests is a central part of that strategy to enter people’s homes without warrants to tear families apart. Not only does this lead to the violation of people’s rights and family separation — it also makes everyone less safe, as it reduces trust in local law enforcement when people think that the police are immigration agents.”

Sarah Rodriguez, an ICE spokeswoman, disagrees with the measure. She told CNN:

“’Police’ is the universally recognized term for law enforcement. Our personnel routinely interact with individuals from around the world. In the often dangerous law enforcement arena, being able to immediately identify yourself as law enforcement may be a life-or-death issue.”

Although Rep. Velázquez doubts the bill will come to the floor under a Republican-controlled House, she regards her bill as a crucial attempt to rein in Trump’s extreme positions.

She said:

“What I can tell you is that we need to bring attention and call the attention of the White House and Homeland Security that there are ways to implement immigration in communities without instilling fear.” 

Featured image from YouTube video.

Image from OnSizzle



Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, Liberal Nation Rising, and Medium.