Abolish ICE . . . And Then What?

19 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2019 Last revised: 29 Jan 2020

See all articles by Peter L. Markowitz

Peter L. Markowitz

Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law - Yeshiva University

Date Written: November 7, 2019


In recent years, activists and then politicians began calling for the abolition of the United States’s interior immigration-enforcement agency: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Many people have misinterpreted the call to “Abolish ICE” as merely a spontaneous rhetorical device used to express outrage at the current Administration’s brutal immigration policies. In fact, abolishing ICE is the natural extension of years of thoughtful organizing by a loose coalition of grassroots immigrant-rights groups. These organizations are serious, not only about their literal goal to eliminate the agency, but also about not replacing it with another dedicated agency of immigration police. Accordingly, the proposal to eliminate ICE necessarily raises the question of how, in a post-ICE world, the United States would enforce its immigration laws. Missing from the public discourse, however, is an affirmative vision for the mechanics of a just and humane immigration-enforcement system that could follow the abolition of ICE. Drawing on lessons from our own and other nations’ past immigration-enforcement schemes, enforcement mechanisms employed by other federal agencies, and interviews with leaders of the “Abolish ICE” movement, I seek to begin to fill this void. This Essay suggests a paradigm shift in immigration enforcement toward the creation of an enforcement scheme that does not rely on detention, mass deportation, or any dedicated agency of immigration police but is nevertheless realistic and effective at increasing compliance with immigration law. The new immigration enforcement principles set forth herein are intended as a starting point for the immigrant-rights movement and for policymakers to use, critique, and improve upon.

Suggested Citation

Markowitz, Peter L., Abolish ICE . . . And Then What? (November 7, 2019). Yale Law Journal Forum, Cardozo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 581, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3420771 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3420771

Peter L. Markowitz (Contact Author)

Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law - Yeshiva University ( email )

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