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Some ICE agents want to split from agency to avoid political backlash

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A letter signed by 19 ICE agents sent to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen asks her to split the Homeland Security Investigative division from the Enforcement and Removal Operations division. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

In response to the severe political backlash against Immigration and Customs Enforcement over border policies, a group of special agents is asking for their department to be separated from the agency, The Texas Observer reported.

A letter signed by 19 agents in ICE's Homeland Security Investigative Division said the negative perception of the agency over deportations and border detainment policies has made it difficult for them to do their jobs.

ICE is comprised of two separate divisions. Homeland Security and Investigative deals with counterterrorism, drugs, and human trafficking, while the other division, Enforcement and Removal Operations handles the immigration arrests and deportations that have made headlines recently.

"The perception of HSI's investigative independence is unnecessarily impacted by the political nature of ERO's civil immigration enforcement," the letter read.

What's the problem?

The HSI agents say that some law enforcement jurisdictions have refused or been hesitant to work with them, turned off by the connection to ICE and its reputation nationally.

"Many jurisdictions continue to refuse to work with HSI because of a perceived linkage to the politics of civil immigration," they wrote in the letter. "Other jurisdictions agree to partner with HSI as long as the 'ICE' name is excluded from any public facing information."

The agents also said their investigations have been "unnecessarily impacted by the political nature" of immigration enforcement activity.

Backlash against the Trump administration and ICE has reached new heights in recent weeks in light of a controversy over the separation of children from their detained parents who were arrested attempting to illegally cross the border.

ICE buildings in cities across the nation have been occupied by protesters who seek to prevent employees from entering the building, sometimes shutting down operations completely.

What do they want to happen?

In the letter, the HSI agents suggest that ICE's enforcement mission and transnational investigative mission have grown into independent, distinct undertakings, and that it would be more effective to acknowledge that by restructuring them into independent entities.

"While separating HSI and ERO will have some administrative challenges, the establishment of two separate and independent agencies will improve transparency, efficiency and effectiveness," the letter read.

(H/T The Washington Post)

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