Last week, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted an operation in Morgantown. The agency has been extremely vague, saying only in a statement “ICE is not currently conducting any large-scale operations in Morgantown, however, ICE does conduct targeted enforcement operations in compliance with federal law and agency policy every day in West Virginia and across the nation.”
West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s David Mistich went to the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety for additional info. Mistich reported, “Records show 15 people were booked last week in the South Central Regional Jail in Charleston and another was booked in the Eastern Regional Jail in Martinsburg.”
The ICE enforcement triggered some hyperventilating in the University City. The WVU student newspaper the Daily Athenaeum reported on a campus rally against ICE where protesters were told if they encountered an ICE agent, “Get their name, badge number and vehicle’s identifying number. Get as much information and record it… especially if they are behaving badly.”
The issue came up at this week’s Morgantown City Council meeting. A city resident, who appeared to be near tears, compared ICE to “a modern stasis Gestapo.” It takes a truly active imagination to liken this country’s enforcement of immigration laws with Hitler’s sadistic thugs who were on the front lines of the Holocaust.
Several Morgantown City Council members responded sympathetically, wondering aloud whether the city could justify its website welcoming statement as an “inclusive community” if ICE was arresting people without even notifying local authorities.
The critics of ICE’s actions are imagining a worst-case scenario—a desperate mother whose only crime is that she entered the country illegally being torn away from the arms of her sobbing children. Naturally, no thinking human being wants that, but we don’t know what happened.
It’s just as possible, in fact it’s more likely given the recent ICE enforcement actions, that the agency rounded up illegals who have re-entered the country multiple times or individuals who are engaged in human trafficking. It’s also possible that ICE raided a workplace that employed illegals.
Frankly, the refusal of ICE to be more forthcoming about its “targeted enforcement operation” simply fuels the kind of suspicion, fear and hyperbole that energizes its critics.
Meanwhile, Morgantown’s “inclusiveness” remains well intact, largely because of West Virginia University. WVU is home to about 2,000 international students from 110 different countries and approximately 460 faculty and researchers from 60 countries.
Most of the students are here on an F-1 education visa. Many of the scholars have H1-B, O-1 or EB-1 visas that may ultimately allow them to pursue permanent residency with a green card. Every one of these individuals has followed the rules.
The problem isn’t ICE; it’s a broken immigration system that Washington has been unable or unwilling to address. Cries of “Build the Wall” and palpitations over routine enforcement of federal laws may satisfy some emotional need, but they don’t contribute to solving the fundamental problem.