July 2 (UPI) -- In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, 19 senior investigators at Immigration and Customs Enforcement called for the agency to be separated into two distinct agencies.
The letter, sent to Nielsen last month, explains that immigration enforcement duties have interfered with the work of Homeland Security Investigations, a subagency of ICE. And if disbanded from ICE, HSI can work unfettered while immigration enforcement continues to be conducted the Enforcement and Removals Operations section of ICE, the investigators said.
"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 states. "There are numerous reasons the establishment of two separate agencies will improve both agencies. Both agencies have suffered low approval ratings in recent DHS Federal Viewpoint surveys. The establishment of two separate agencies will allow employees to develop a strong agency pride."
The letter continues: "The current structure does not allow for each agency's distinctive missions to develop; rather, it results in each agency lacking the ability to find a direction and seemingly competing for budget, resources and an identity."
Immigrant arrests and deportations would likely continue if ICE were dissolved into two distinct agencies, with ERO being responsible for that part of the agency's responsibilities.
Alonzo Peña, a former ICE deputy director, told the Texas Observer that instead of "contributing to the welfare and safety of the country," HSI agents worry their agency is "just becoming a political pawn for this administration."
HSI is "supposed to be out there making these major cases, these big cartels that are smuggling guns, drugs, money," Peña said. "And because of this whole immigration rhetoric -- that immigrants are bad, that they're criminals and rapists and all that -- the focus is totally off mission."
The letter comes as a growing number of Democrats have called for ICE to be abolished in the face of a new focus on immigrants rights within the party during the Trump administration.
In response, President Donald Trump has criticized Democrats as being soft on crime and immigration.
"The Liberal Left, also known as the Democrats, want to get rid of ICE, who do a fantastic job, and want Open Borders. Crime would be rampant and uncontrollable! Make America Great Again," Trump tweeted on Sunday.