‘Abolish ICE’ goes mainstream as Gillibrand, de Blasio back calls
The idea was once relegated to the far-left. But the liberal push to abolish the federal agency that enforces federal immigration laws is going mainstream in the Democratic Party, with New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Mayor Bill de Blasio adding their support to the cause in the last 24 hours.
“I believe that [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] has become a deportation force … and that’s why I believe you should get rid of it, start over, reimagine it and build something that actually works,” Gillibrand said in a CNN interview Thursday night.
“We should abolish ICE,” de Blasio said Friday morning on WNYC radio.
Gillibrand’s endorsement is notable as she’s the first sitting senator to back the ‘abolish ICE’ push — and is considered a potential 2020 presidential contender.
They join numerous other Democratic candidates, House members, liberal commentators and writers who have fought back against the Trump administration’s immigration policies by calling to gut ICE — which identifies, arrests and deports illegal immigrants inside the United States.
The growing influence behind the push was underscored earlier this week with liberal primary challenger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s shocking victory over Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., a member of party leadership.
Ocasio-Cortez emphasized her support for abolishing ICE during the campaign, and even protested outside an ICE center in Texas.
“Its extra-judicial nature is baked into the structure of the agency and that is why they are able to get away with black sites at our border, with the separation of children,” the Democrat said in an interview this week.
The focus on ICE comes in the wake of the controversy over the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, which called for all illegal border crossers to be prosecuted. This in turn led to the separation of families due to longstanding detention rules, until President Trump signed an executive order last week ordering families be detained together.
With that controversy in the headlines, the abolition of ICE — which has long been the purview of far-left sections of the Democratic Party base advocating for open borders and no deportations — has moved from being a slogan on protest placards to an idea being mulled by rumored 2020 hopefuls.
“Every country needs reasonable law enforcement on their borders. ICE is not reasonable law enforcement. ICE is broken, it’s divisive and it should be abolished,” de Blasio tweeted Friday.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo also has come under heavy pressure from the left to call for the elimination of ICE, particularly amid a far-left challenge from actress and activist Cynthia Nixon — who called it a terrorist organization.
And Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., who has been floated as a 2020 Democratic contender, said that the U.S. should consider “starting from scratch” for ICE — though stopped short of calling to abolish it.
In Oregon, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who voted against the agency’s creation in 2002, doubled down on his opposition in a recent Medium post in which he called for it to be shut down.
“We should abolish ICE and start over, focusing on our priorities to protect our families and our borders in a humane and thoughtful fashion,” he said.
In January, the idea was endorsed by Brian Fallon, a former top aide to 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and Eric Holder, President Barack Obama’s attorney general.
“ICE operates as an unaccountable deportation force,” Fallon tweeted. “Dems running in 2020 should campaign on ending the agency in its current form.”
The idea isn’t limited to deep-blue Democratic enclaves.
Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., announced Monday that he will introduce a bill to abolish the agency, set up during President George W. Bush’s administration in the wake of 9/11.
“I’m introducing legislation that would abolish ICE and crack down on the agency’s blanket directive to target and round up individuals and families,” Pocan said in a statement. “The heartless actions of this abused agency do not represent the values of our nation and the U.S. must develop a more humane immigration system, one that treats every person with dignity and respect.”
The shift to the left on immigration has some Republicans and conservatives delighted, thinking that it may move Democrats into unelectable territory.
“Based on the last week, Democrats apparently want to campaign on open borders, mass migration, & abolishing ICE,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said on Twitter. “Give them points for honesty. Let’s vote.”
An ICE spokesperson, Liz Johnson, assistant director of the Office of Public Affairs, called the clamor to abolish ICE “dangerously misguided,” saying it overlooks “the vital work that ICE officers and special agents perform each day to keep the citizens of New York safe.
“Over the last year, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations in New York arrested more than 5,000 criminal aliens – removing public safety threats from the streets. During the same period, ICE Homeland Security Investigations’ cases have led to more than 280 arrests of MS-13 gang members and associates, seizures of hundreds of weapons, and hundreds of criminal arrests for narcotics violations to include heroin and fentanyl-related offenses.
“Instead of being insulted with politically motivated attacks, the men and women of ICE should be praised for risking life and limb every day in the name of national security and public safety.”
Fox News’ Adam Shaw contributed to this report.