Internal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) emails published Wednesday by The Intercept reveal the intense public relations purposes of the national round-ups of immigrants that began with raids on February 6.
ICE headquarters sent out an “URGENT” order to offices around the country to “Please put together a white paper covering the three most egregious cases” in each district where raids took place, the emails showed.
The “white papers” were to be released to the press to show that the immigrants being arrested were a danger to the community. Acknowledging that the raids were mainly targeting low-priority immigrants, the email added “If a location has only one egregious case — then include an extra egregious case from another city.”
The emails, which were heavily redacted, were released through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by a request from students at the Vanderbilt University Law School.
In Austin, Texas, the ICE team sent to make arrests was instructed that “As soon as you come in, your sole focus today will be compiling three egregious case write-ups.” The arrests were the first move by the new Trump administration, in office for only two weeks, to demonstrate to the president’s base that he was fulfilling his promise to begin mass deportations. The manufacture of “egregious case” reports by ICE was designed to paint immigrants as criminals.
When the public outcry in Austin put ICE on the defensive, the federal agency told reporters that ICE was “removing from the streets criminal aliens and other threats to the public, ICE helps improve public safety.”
When the news media found that many of those arrested were without criminal records, ICE backtracked and claimed that its operations were just normal and routine enforcement of warrants and told reporters that it was “false, dangerous, and irresponsible” to report otherwise. All the while, President Trump was tweeting jubilantly about the raids, making them appear anything but routine.
According to The Intercept reporter Alice Speri, the emails reveal that “in the early days of Donald Trump’s presidency, ICE agents in Austin scrambled — and largely failed — to engineer a narrative that would substantiate the administration’s claims that the raids were motivated by public safety concerns.”
The evidence, of course, is that many of those arrested posed no danger at all. The recent report from WNYC also showed that raids in New York included those charged with minor crimes. More and more, it is becoming clear that these arrests are politically motivated, and ICE was and still is used as a tool for Donald Trump’s seemingly permanent political campaign.