Terrorism is defined as the unlawful use or threat of violence or intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency is using tactics that fit the definition of terrorism.
ICE agents are making arrests that are designed to create fear among immigrants, including legal immigrants, and to intimidate and traumatize them. For example, ICE agents are arresting immigrants at hearings where they are applying for legal status, at courthouses where immigrants are engaged with our criminal justice system, near schools, and even in hospitals.
ICE’s practice of separating children and parents is designed to instill fear and anxiety in parents.  It also traumatizes children, who are likely to have already been traumatized by the experiences that have led their parents to flee their home countries.
For parents seeking asylum, separating children from parents clearly violates US and international laws on the treatment of asylum-seekers. (See my previous post for examples.) For others, suits have been filed to have this practice declared illegal because it fails to provide due process for parents and children, and constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, among other things.
The resultant fear and intimidation are causing immigrant parents to avoid enrolling children in school or preschool programs (such as Head Start) and to avoid public programs that provide access to health care and healthy nutrition, including for pregnant women and infants.
In Massachusetts, ICE’s actions have inhibited immigrants’ participation in our criminal justice system, as victims, witnesses, and defendants. Arrests by ICE at courthouses and ICE’s treatment of immigrants in their custody have intimidated immigrants and prevented them from exercising their constitutional rights. As a result, victims are afraid to appear in court to seek relief or protection, and witnesses are reluctant to testify. 
Two lawsuits have been filed asking the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to bar ICE from making arrests in or near courthouses. Such arrests are happening on a weekly basis and have occurred at 24 courthouses around the state.
Furthermore, ICE has refused, even when ordered by a state judge, to bring immigrants in its custody to criminal proceedings where they are a defendant, a clear violation of a defendant’s rights. Because of ICE’s refusal to transport immigrants in its custody to court hearings or to meet court-ordered obligations, these immigrants have been denied access to our justice system, have been put in violation of their terms of probation, and have failed to receive court-ordered drug and mental health treatment.
These actions by ICE fit the definition of terrorism: the unlawful use or threat of violence or intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.
- ICE’s actions are clearly unlawful,
- Its actions and the threat of them clearly intimidate civilians, and
- The reason the Trump Administration is engaging in these actions is clearly the pursuit of political aims – to win the political support of a certain segment of the population and to meet campaign promises – because these actions don’t achieve meaningful policy goals in any significant or effective way.
 Hing, J., 3/15/18, “For Trump, cruelty is the point,” The Nation (https://www.thenation.com/article/for-trump-cruelty-is-the-point/)
 Johnson, A., 3/16/18, “ICE arrests at courts decried,” The Boston Globe