On Friday, Rep. Jim Walsh joins other Washington State legislators in sending a letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen that expresses “strong support” for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division of her agency.
In the letter, the Washington legislators state:
We are disturbed by recent protests and statements from elected officials that have urged an elimination of ICE or a substantial reduction in its enforcement ability. We understand at least one member of Congress from Washington State has expressed support for legislation to abolish ICE. …This is counterproductive. While people of good will may differ on the best way to enforce border security and on recent policy decisions regarding families intercepted while attempting to cross the border [into the United States] illegally, common sense dictates some entity must be tasked with enforcing federal law and protecting U.S. citizens.
The letter also notes that ICE was created following the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. It calls those attacks “a stark reminder of the danger if we are not vigilant against those who enter the country illegally and wish to do us harm.” It points out that ICE does more than just enforce U.S. borders. ICE agents also: work closely with other law enforcement agencies to combat human trafficking; keep illegal drugs and weapons out of the U.S.; and play an integral role in combating international criminal gangs, such as “MS-13.”
The letter concludes:
As a state with many ports and high-profile tourist destinations, in addition to a well-traveled international border, Washington counts on ICE as a critical element in our security and defense. We therefore express our strong support for ICE and appreciation for its employees who serve our nation and help keep our citizens safe. We are strongly opposed to any legislation or public statements that undermine its important mission.
Separately, Rep. Walsh offers some local insights that explain why he joined his colleagues in signing the letter to Sec. Nielsen:
In the district I represent, people have concerns about seemingly-random ICE actions—especially in and around the Long Beach peninsula. So, I’ve spoken with ICE managers operating out of both the Seattle and Portland offices. Here’s what they’ve told me: ICE would prefer to focus its resources on deporting illegal immigrants who have committed or been charged with additional crimes in the U.S.—and are already in county jails or similar facilities. But political grandstanding by some local officials prohibits ICE agents from working inside the jail system. This is wrong. It’s wasteful. If we let ICE agents do their job in the way they know works best, they’ll concentrate on hardened criminals. We need to look past the sanctimonious virtue-signaling and let our professionals enforce our laws effectively. Which also means justly and humanely.