New rallying call for 2020 Democrats: ‘Abolish ICE’
Several prominent Democrats who are mulling a bid for the White House in 2020 sought to bolster their progressive credentials this week by calling for major changes to immigration enforcement, with some pressing for the outright abolition of the federal government’s chief immigration enforcement agency.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, has “become a deportation force.”
“You should get rid of it, start over, reimagine it and build something that actually works,” she told CNN late Thursday.
Her comments follow similar sentiments expressed by Sen. Kamala Harris of California over the past week. In interviews with multiple outlets, she has said the government “maybe” or “probably” should “start from scratch” on an immigration enforcement agency.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who sought the Democratic nomination in 2016 and is mulling another run, has stopped short of his colleagues’ calls to dismantle ICE. But he has also been quick to note his vote opposing the 2002 law that paved the way for ICE to replace the old Immigration and Naturalization Service following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Housed within the Department of Homeland Security, ICE is in charge of executing hundreds of federal immigration statutes. The debate over the agency’s future follows the widespread outcry in recent weeks after the Trump administration separated more than 2,000 migrant children from their parents. Marches are scheduled across the country today to protest the policy, which President Donald Trump later reversed.
The Democratic calls to scrap the agency underscore the balancing act the party is facing on immigration issues. Such rhetoric could prove unhelpful to the 10 Democratic senators seeking re-election this fall in states Trump carried in 2016, where conservative views on immigration prevail. But calling for an end to ICE could be a winner for Democrats seeking to rally the party’s base in the 2020 presidential primaries.
Many anti-Trump activists, who are driving the Twitter hashtag #abolishICE, have celebrated the moves by Gillibrand, Harris and others.
Whatever the details, the focus on ICE could cause problems for some potential candidates with more conservative records on immigration.