WASHINGTON D.C. (NEXSTAR) – Two years after the Twin Towers fell in New York City, a new federal department rose in Washington, whose stated purpose was to better protect our national security.
“ICE actually has a rare ability within the law enforcement community to prevent crime,” said Matt Albence, Acting ICE Director.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — or ICE— is part of the Department of Homeland Security.
During its 16 years of service, ICE has taken on drug smugglers, human traffickers, and child predators.
But immigration enforcement has been the agency’s main mission.
“We can arrest and remove criminal aliens before they can harm anyone else again, immigrant and citizen alike,” said Albence.
Albence says last year, the agency arrested and deported nearly 100,000 undocumented immigrants. Most were convicted criminals and about 10 percent were gang members or terrorists.
“Our at large criminal alien and fugitive operation teams are working in your community every day,” said Albence.
But some communities prevent their law enforcement agencies from working with ICE by adopting sanctuary laws, which shield undocumented immigrants.
“People are being hurt and victimized every day because of jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with ICE,” said Albence.
According to the Center for Immigration Studies, nearly 30 states are home to at least one sanctuary city or county.
Tennessee is not on that list.
“It’s been said that every county in the nation should consider itself a border county. Here in Tennessee, we don’t have international borders, but we still need to start thinking like that,” said McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy.
McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy was in Washington last week to lobby Congress to take action to slow illegal immigration.
Guy says every community in Tennessee is constantly fighting against drugs, human trafficking, and gang activity, which he says are directly related to issues at the border.
“If you have a water leak in your home, you fix the water leak. You don’t replace the floor. You fix the leak. You take care of that, and the other issues will take care of themselves,” said Guy.
Democrats like Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro, have criticized ICE because of its role in enforcing President Trump’s immigration policy, which has included family separations and deportations.
“This is an attempt to intimidate immigrant and Latino communities across the country,” said Castro.
But Republicans, like Tennessee Congressman Chuck Fleischmann, defend the agency.
“They’re going after targeted criminals, people who they know have committed crimes. These are dangerous people who are actually in our communities,” said Fleischmann.
ICE’s acting chief says the agency’s mission is not political.
“Working with ICE isn’t an immigration issue. It’s a public safety issue.”
News 2 is digging deeper into ICE activity in Tennessee, the dynamics involved and the debate that has followed. See our special reports all day Thursday in every newscast. Click here to read more.