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Why Democrats call for ICE to be abolished

CNN's Van Jones explains the controversy around the calls to eliminate the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Posted: Jul 3, 2018 12:22 PM
Updated: Jul 3, 2018 12:22 PM

More Democrats have joined the growing list of names who want to abolish US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, more commonly known as ICE.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who beat Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley of New York in the primary last week, ran on a platform of abolishing the agency, and so far, more lawmakers have echoed her call.

Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin said he would introduce legislation that would dismantle ICE and create a commission to provide recommendations to Congress on how the government "can implement a humane immigration enforcement system," according to a statement.

The issue comes after the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" policy, which referred all people who cross the border illegally for criminal prosecution on top of immigration proceedings.

As a result of enforcing that policy, parents and children who cross illegally are separated because the parents are put into the criminal justice system.

But last month, Trump reversed course and signed an executive order to keep families together.

Customs and Border Protection and ICE serve different functions. CBP enforces immigration laws on the US borders and ICE enforces immigration laws throughout the country.

The White House tweeted at Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris in an attempt to clarify the role of ICE to the lawmakers, while also accusing them of supporting unlawful activities and the MS-13 gang.

".@SenWarren, why are you supporting criminals moving weapons, drugs, and victims across our nation's borders? You must not know what ICE really does. Here is a link to help you out," they tweeted at Warren, as well as a similar tweet to Harris, that included a link to an official government page about ICE's Border Enforcement Security Task Force.

The White House tweeted at Harris, writing, ".@SenKamalaHarris, why are you supporting the animals of MS-13? You must not know what ICE really does" with a link to a press release about ICE deporting a Salvadoran MS-13 affiliate, as well as an Irish national.

Here's a look at the lawmakers who have said they want to abolish the agency:


Kirsten Gillibrand of New York

"I don't think ICE today is working as intended," Gillibrand said Thursday night on CNN's "Cuomo PrimeTime." "I believe that it has become a deportation force, and I think you should separate the criminal justice from the immigration issues."

Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts

In a Facebook post on Saturday, Warren wrote, "The President's deeply immoral actions have made it obvious that we need to rebuild our immigration system from top to bottom, starting by replacing ICE with something that reflects our values," a line that mirrored her statements in a speech at a protest in Boston.

House members

Mark Pocan of Wisconsin

"From conducting raids at garden centers, and meatpacking plants, to breaking up families at churches and schools, ICE is tearing apart families and ripping the moral fabric of our nation," he said in a statement.

Pramila Jayapal of Washington

"We need to set up a commission that looks at the alternatives to ICE and really starts to understand how do we have these functions in a way that is accountable, transparent and humane," Jayapal told The Hill.

Earl Blumenauer of Oregon

"We should be prioritizing the protection of families and our borders in a humane and thoughtful way. People should be treated with compassion and respect. ICE is simply not doing that," Blumenauer said in a statement. "Trump and his administration have made the agency so toxic that it's time to abolish ICE, and start over."

Jim McGovern of Massachusetts

"We need to start a fresh conversation. If there are elements that work, we can maintain and strengthen those aspects. Otherwise, we need to thoroughly reevaluate and re-think immigration enforcement," he said in a post to his website.

Rep. Nydia Velázquez of New York

"While eliminating ICE would be an important step, it alone is not enough to halt Donald Trump's deportation machine," she said in a statement. "This Administration is attacking immigrants on a multitude of fronts and we must resist on all of them. That includes reuniting and releasing families separated at the border, ending family detention and passing protections for Dreamers and TPS recipients."

Raul Grijalva of Arizona

Adriano Espaillat of New York


New York Mayor Bill de Blasio

He told WNYC's Brian Lehrer, "ICE's time has come and gone."

Democratic congressional nominee Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Calling for changes to ICE

Kamala Harris of California

"I think there's no question that we've got to critically re-examine ICE and its role and the way that it is being administered and the work it is doing," she told MSNBC. "And we need to probably think about starting from scratch."

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