The Atlantic’s Distorted Perspective on Immigration Enforcement

For years, the open-borders lobby has applauded efforts by successive administrations to selectively ignore whatever parts of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) might offend favored political constituencies. What’s worse, they treated each decision to let a group of immigration violators off-the-hook as though it were an irreversible constitutional mandate, never to be undone by any successive administration.

Meanwhile, most Americans viewed these rule-bending policies as an immigration disaster waiting to happen. And they were right, as tragic events ranging from the September 11, 2001 attacks to the Unaccompanied Alien Children crisis have consistently proven. So, fed up with a lack of meaningful immigration enforcement, American voters elected Donald Trump to hit the so-called “reset button.” And that has irked the elitist open-borders contingent.

Witness The Atlantic’s recently published an article titled, “How Trump Radicalized ICE”.  It claims that, “Under the current administration, many of the formal restraints on ICE have been removed,” allowing the Trump administration to turn U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement into a highly-efficient federal law enforcement agency focused on deporting illegal aliens and other immigration law-breakers.  According to The Atlantic this is radical.

Except that The Atlantic has gotten it completely backward. None of what it decries as “formal restraints on ICE” were ever anything but informal policies. And, far from “radicalizing” ICE, President Trump is simply allowing the agency to perform its assigned tasks, as they were prescribed by Congress.

So, what purports to be an exposé on the misuse of ICE by President Trump turns out to be nothing more than an incoherent rant. And, to support its wobbly argument, The Atlantic relies on all sorts of outlandish claims and outrageous assertions. Here are just a few of the more egregious examples:

  • “No one, as a child, dreams of growing up to deport undocumented immigrants.” – This overly broad statement is clearly intended to portray ICE as some sort of “Land-of-the-Misfit-Toys” staffed by officers who set out to become FBI agents but couldn’t make the cut. But, this type of oversimplification only holds water if you believe that deportation is inherently immoral. Most folks working for ICE believe that deportation is not only moral, but that it is an entirely appropriate response to foreigners who enter the U.S. without authorization.


  • Deportation Officers can’t execute search warrants.The Atlantic clearly wants its readers to believe that Deportation Officers are a lesser species of federal law enforcement officer who can’t execute search warrants. However, 8 Code of Federal Regulations § 287.5(e) specifically states that Deportation Officers are “authorized and designated” to execute search warrants.


  • “ICE has numeric goals, and it goes to great lengths to achieve them.The Atlantic claims that ICE sets “a daily goal for the number of human beings it will deprive of liberty.” This is wildly misleading. The Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2016 required ICE to have 34,000 detention slots available for potential deportees, through September 16, 2016. However, Congress never required ICE to keep those beds filled. However, for quite some time now, ICE has regularly arrested more people that it can detain – releasing those who pose no threat to the community, and little flight risk, on bond.

Near the end, The Atlantic attempts to inject a false measure of objectivity into its ICE smear piece, noting that “Fears of ICE can be exaggerated by word of mouth or compounded by hyperbolic news reports…” Ironically, it doesn’t seem to notice that its own piece is, in fact, one of those fear-mongering, over-the-top news reports.

About Author


Matthew J. O’Brien joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 2016. Matt is responsible for managing FAIR’s research activities. He also writes content for FAIR’s website and publications. Over the past twenty years he has held a wide variety of positions focusing on immigration issues, both in government and in the private sector. Immediately prior to joining FAIR Matt served as the Chief of the National Security Division (NSD) within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where he was responsible for formulating and implementing procedures to protect the legal immigration system from terrorists, foreign intelligence operatives, and other national security threats. He has also held positions as the Chief of the FDNS Policy and Program Development Unit, as the Chief of the FDNS EB-5 Division, as Assistant Chief Counsel with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, as a Senior Advisor to the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, and as a District Adjudications Officer with the legacy Immigration & Naturalization Service. In addition, Matt has extensive experience as a private bar attorney. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the Johns Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law.


  1. avatar

    Indeed the Atlantic article was yet another example of msm hysteria, I have been a long-time subscriber but won’t renew. Why pay to be
    Lied to?

  2. avatar

    I’m not much for government intervention, but in this case I might make an exception.
    Perhaps it’s time to legislate that any media that present easily obtainable factual information in a false manner could be sanctioned after first being warned of their offense(s). Such offense(s) would have to receive a full and factually correct correction in EXACTLY the same format and manner/location as the falsely presented information was done initially. It would also have to be duplicated in relation to the number of references made to such incorrect statements.
    Repeat offenders (three times and you’re out) would be subject to both fines and, in egregious commissions of distortion or falsehoods, jail time.
    Media is welcome to present their lies, but ONLY under clearly identified OPINION banners which are fully observable and identifiable when and where they do so. Violations of same should be subject to the same sanctions as noted above.
    When schools do NOT teach their charges the skills necessary to separate fact from opinion and propaganda, they are part of the problem and they, too, need to be punished.
    Their job is to teach skills, not infuse indoctrination.

  3. avatar

    Another magazine for pearl clutching liberals. Among the nonsense stated is “even if” such things as the “Muslim ban” “fail in court”. It was never a Muslim ban. It was a ban on seven Muslim majority nations, among forty plus such nations. Obama had a similar list. The Supreme Court backed Trump because federal law says the president can ban whomever he chooses, and the Court has upheld that several times.

    They also claim “ICE has loudly trumpeted its escalation of raids in those cities, sending the message that any notion of sanctuary is pure illusion”. Which of course it is. If anyone thought that those cities could defy federal authorities they are the ones that are under an “illusion”.