ICE takes on bongs, rolling papers, and other “head shop” items

Silja J.A. Talvi

After the massive reorg of federal gov't agencies, INS became ICE, and was subsumed under the Dept. of Homeland Security. Everybody with me? ICE's purpose, ostensibly, was to speed up and streamline the immigrant process, deportation hearings, grounds for detention, what have you. From all accounts I've gotten, none of that has gone particularly well or quickly. And then I came across this, which led me to wonder if the War on Drugs, Immigrants, and "Terrorism" have truly been melded into one, bizarre but immensely powerful method of centralizing arrests of the "undesirables" among us. Or maybe the ICE folks felt like they needed something more sensational to fixate on? Maybe there weren't enough immigrants to arrest that day? This from the ICE press release: MIAMI - Bongs, onyx, metal pipes and other drug paraphernalia were among the 5,500 items seized last week by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents serving several federal search and seizure warrants. Many of the items seized were disguised as everyday items such as highlighters, pagers and women's lipstick. “These shops sell a dangerous lie about drugs and drug use,” said Jesus Torres, special agent-in-charge for ICE in Miami. “It is obvious they want people to think its okay to take drugs. This is simply unacceptable.” This seizure is as a result of Operation up in Smoke, a continuing ICE Miami initiative launched in Dec. 2003 designed to identify and prosecute businesses that illegally import, manufacture, and distribute drug paraphernalia in South Florida. Since the inception of this initiative, ICE special agents have served approximately 25 federal search warrants, seizing more than 85,000 items of illegal drug paraphernalia worth more than $2 million. These seizures were made with the assistance of the Miami Beach Police Department (MBPD).

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Silja J.A. Talvi, a senior editor at In These Times, is an investigative journalist and essayist with credits in many dozens of newspapers and magazines nationwide, including The Nation, Salon, Santa Fe Reporter, Utne, and the Christian Science Monitor.
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