Back in 2003 the Department of Homeland Security was established by combining several agencies from other U.S. departments under one overarching umbrella. The thinking was that placing all of these disparate agencies under one department would somehow make such activities related to homeland security, such as intelligence gathering and enforcement of border security, more efficient and effective.
Whether simply placing agencies under the same federal department resulted in any significant improvement in information sharing or a more efficient operation is still a matter for debate. What is not a matter for debate is that one of the agencies created under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), ICE, which stands for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is now under intense scrutiny due to how the agency is implementing White House policy as it relates to immigration via the southern border of the United States.
When DHS was established in 2003 the inspection force of United States Customs, formerly under the Department of Treasury, was combined with the inspection force of the Immigration & Naturalization Service (INS), formerly under the Justice Department to form what is now called CBP, which stands for Customs and Border Protection. Also becoming a part of CBP was the Border Patrol, formerly under the Department of Transportation (don't ask me how that happened).
At the same time the investigative arms of U.S. Customs and the INS were combined under ICE. This agency includes all of the special agents that were in both U.S. Customs and INS.
In general, laws, any laws, but especially those passed by Congress, are, by nature, somewhat broad. How any particular agency can effectively implement and enforce those laws is dictated by the process and procedures developed by the responsible agency and will be impacted by available resources and funding.
In other words, prioritization.
Now, just so you have a better idea of roles, when it comes to southern border immigration, there are three geographic areas to consider: the U.S. ports of entry along the border, the space between those ports of entry, and everything interior to the United States impacted by what and whom get through the southern border into the United States. Brownsville Texas is a port of entry along the southern border. So, too, are Laredo Texas, El Paso Texas, Nogales Arizona and so on. Those ports of entry are managed, primarily, by CBP inspectors. Securing the areas between the southern border ports of entry is the responsibility of the Border Patrol portion of CBP.
As for investigating violations resulting from illegal entry beyond that border, that responsibility falls primarily to the special agents of ICE. However, and this is the most important point I would like to make regarding ICE responsibilities: rounding up immigrant families who have entered the United States illegally between the ports of entry is NOT its only responsibility nor its primary responsibility.
When it comes to ICE there is a myriad of responsibilities including investigations involving human trafficking, child exploitation, cyber-crime, and intelligence gathering among others to go along with its responsibility for locating and extraditing criminal immigrants and apprehending and deporting non-criminal (meaning non-serious criminal) but still illegal immigrants.
Regarding immigrant families, it must be understood that the controversial policy came from the very top. It is, indeed, technically “illegal” to try to enter the United States between the ports of entry. However, try to imagine escaping a building on fire. Yes, there is an approved route to vacate the building, but when running for the safety of you and your family you take whatever route you can to reach a safe haven especially if the approved route is blocked by fire.
Likewise, those fleeing the violence and corruption of Central American countries to seek refuge in the United States of America, which had offered refuge to generations of immigrant families throughout our history may not have the option of waiting in line at the port of entry. They may not have the option of “coming back in a few days” because it is their children who face danger back in the country they are fleeing.
As I mentioned earlier, the federal agencies ordinarily develop the process and procedures to implement the policy that reflects the intent of the laws passed by Congress. What caused this process to become overwhelming, as many of you already know, is when the administration decided on a zero-tolerance policy. This meant that, instead of using resources to, as mentioned earlier, locate and extradite criminal immigrants, available resources had to be used apprehend and deport ALL individuals attempting to cross the border between ports of entry.
This included individuals who clearly did not pose the safety threat continually emphasized by the president as a critical element of his fear-mongering agenda. This included families with small children and the elderly, for example, who clearly did not pose the threat that the administration has brainwashed its base into fearing.
I find it unimaginable for a small child to be taken from a parent. Yes, the process saw some children temporarily separated from their parents under previous administrations. What stands out, however, is the magnitude of parent-child separations that was unnecessarily created by this president's zero-tolerance policy.
The Constitution, specifically the Eighth Amendment, prohibits the infliction of “cruel and unusual punishment.” I can't think of anything more cruel than the separation of a child from his or her parent. If you can't imagine this, try thinking of being separated from your own children or grandchildren.
Now, conservative justices have, in the past, limited the Eighth Amendment to criminal acts and it is possible for the courts to consider these separations to be a civil regulatory action. That, in my opinion, would be wrong considering the explanation of the zero-tolerance policy by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Remember, it was Sessions who explained that any attempts to cross the southern border into the United States between the ports of entry and not through the ports of entry to legally seek asylum are criminal acts and would be dealt with accordingly. To me, that makes it clear that the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution applies.
Oh, and while we are on the topic of the Constitution and for Sarah Huckabee Sanders specifically, having one's day in court is the very essence of “due process.” It is hard to imagine any other manner in which to achieve due process than for one to have his or her day in court.