During global pandemic, student paper says 'biggest' public safety threat is ICE

The editorial board of the UNC-Chapel Hill student paper suggested that ICE agents are the "biggest threat" to public safety.

The statement came amid a global pandemic that has killed thousands of people.

The editorial board of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, recently insisted in an editorial amid the coronavirus pandemic that "the biggest present threat to public safety" is ICE agents. 

The editorial board cited a request made by ICE for 45,000 N95 masks to protect themselves while continuing to enforce the U.S. borders during the coronavirus pandemic. The board cites Immigration and Customs Enforcement's statement it will “continue daily enforcement operations to make criminal and civil arrests, prioritizing individuals who threaten our national security and public safety.”

“We would argue that the biggest present threat to public safety would be ICE agents, not undocumented immigrants,” the board responded.

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“Cramming people into detention centers presents an obvious health concern. One person has already tested positive for COVID-19 in an ICE detention facility. On top of this, in 2019 the Department of Homeland Security reported that medical care at ICE detention facilities was ‘inadequate’,” argued the board.

The UNC students add: “ICE must immediately cease all surveillance and policing activity.” as a response to the current public health crisis.  

“Regardless of your stance on undocumented immigration, ICE’s decision to obtain thousands of masks means that thousands of healthcare providers will go without proper protection. And when time inevitably comes that you or someone you know needs treatment for COVID-19, who would you rather have the mask?” the board concluded.

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Andrew Arthur, former Immigration and Naturalization Service Associate General Counsel, Oversight Counsel for immigration with the House Judiciary Committee, and Immigration Judge from the Center for Immigration studies told Campus Reform that, “the March 25, 2020 editorial in The Daily Tar Heel dehumanizes ICE officers, and discounts to the point of ignorance the important duties those officers perform.”

“ICE’s own guidance, referenced in the editorial, reflects the fact that the agency is focusing its detention efforts on public-safety risks and individuals subject to mandatory detention based on criminal grounds. These are dangerous individuals, who pose an imminent risk to the community,” said Arthur

Arthur pointed out that ICE’s two main purposes are “to ensure that aliens who are ordered removed are actually deported from the country” and to “to protect the community from aliens who pose a public safety risk.”

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Because of this, Arthur explains that ICE’s role is especially important during the current situation.

“In the time of crisis, we want to ensure that unscreened individuals, some of whom may introduce COVID-19 into communities throughout this country, do not attempt illegal entry,” he said. 

“The second purpose, now as always, protects each of the residents of communities across our country- citizen and alien-- from those who would threaten their health, dignity, and property. Given the fact that our first responders are already strained in responding to the disease, we want to ensure that criminals- including criminal aliens- do not exploit the current crisis to achieve their criminal ends,” he added.

“In FY 2019, 86 percent of all of the aliens arrested by ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations(ERO) had criminal arrests or convictions. That included 7,757 aliens convicted of burglary, 26,156 convicted of assault, 5,838 convicted of sex offenses, 3,581 convicted of robbery, 1,110 convicted of kidnapping, and 1,549 convicted of homicide. To name a few,” Arthur said.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Jess_Custodio