Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Is ICE becoming the new Abu Ghraib? I wish Gen. Kelly would show more sense

ICE and associated agencies are racking up headlines that damage the American image around the globe.

flag_of_the_united_states_immigration_and_customs_enforcement
flag_of_the_united_states_immigration_and_customs_enforcement

 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and associated agencies are racking up headlines that damage the American image around the globe.

Consider this humdinger: “Australia’s best-loved children’s author, Mem Fox, was left sobbing and shaken after being detained for two hours and aggressively interrogated by immigration officials at Los Angeles airport. Fox says she’s unlikely to ever travel to the United States again after being made to feel like ‘a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay.’”

 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and associated agencies are racking up headlines that damage the American image around the globe.

Consider this humdinger: “Australia’s best-loved children’s author, Mem Fox, was left sobbing and shaken after being detained for two hours and aggressively interrogated by immigration officials at Los Angeles airport. Fox says she’s unlikely to ever travel to the United States again after being made to feel like ‘a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay.’”

I’ve seen similar stories about doctors and film directors. Then there was the woman with a brain tumor who was hauled out of a Texas hospital. And the French scholar, ironically an expert on Vichy France, who was detained upon landing in Houston. And an Australian children’s author who was so shaken by her questioning in Los Angeles that she said she wouldn’t visit the United States again.

It’s not just foreigners who are being subjected to this. Americans were asked to produce IDs on a domestic flight — a clear violation of the fourth Amendment, and an overstepping of ICE’s mission to protect borders. Also, Muhammed Ali’s son was quizzed about his religion upon landing in Florida, a violation of the first Amendment.

Border Patrol, Customs and immigration officials may feel that they finally are being allowed to do their jobs. But part of that job should be not to damage the image of the United States. Law enforcement is best when it has a sense of mercy.

I discuss this all in a longer version in the New York Times today. (True story: First I wrote this item, on Saturday. Then later that day I mentioned it to my wife. She responded that I should write it up for the Times. So I did, the following morning.)

Photo credit: Wikimedia commons

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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