The White House is going all in on defending ICE amid burgeoning Democratic calls to 'abolish' the agency

  • The White House is ramping up its defence of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, colloquially known as ICE, amid burgeoning calls from Democrats for the agency to be abolished.
  • On Friday, Vice President Mike Pence said the calls for ICE to be abolished were “irresponsible” and said the Trump administration is with the agency “100%.”
  • Sens. Elizabeth Warren, and Kirsten Gillibrand, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and rising Democratic star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are among those calling for ICE to be abolished.

The White House is ramping up its defence of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency known as ICE, amid burgeoning calls from some Democrats for the agency to abolished.

“Just when you thought the Democrats couldn’t move farther to the left, leading members of the Democratic Party, including candidates for higher office, are actually openly advocating for the abolition of ICE, an agency that protects the American people and our communities every single day,” Vice President Mike Pence said during a trip to ICE headquarters on Friday.

Citing calls for ICE to be abolished from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Pence said that while “the American people have a right to their opinions, but these spurious attacks on ICE by our political leaders must stop.”

Pence said the calls for ICE to be abolished were “irresponsible” and said the Trump administration is with the agency “100%.”

Immigration was already poised to be a key issue in this year’s midterm elections, but ICE has been pushed to the center of that debate as the Trump administration faces criticism over its “zero tolerance” immigration policy and the separation of migrant families at the border. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released this week found that immigration was the top concern for voters ahead of the midterms.

ICE, which has roughly 20,000 employees, is not directly responsible for enforcing the “zero tolerance” policy that’s seen thousands of migrant children separated from their parents or guardians as Customs and Border Protection is responsible for the policing of the country’s borders.

But the agency, which is responsible for arresting, detaining, and deporting unauthorised immigrants already within the US, has been accused of rampant abuses and critics feel its approach to immigration enforcement is far too aggressive. Along these lines, Democrats have characterised ICE as a “deportation force.”

In addition to Warren, Gillibrand, and de Blasio, several Democratic members of the House have also called for ICE to be abolished.

Meanwhile, rising Democratic superstar Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who won a shocking victory in the New York Democratic party congressional primary in June, is also among those who’ve called for the agency’s abolishment. Pence also criticised New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, who has made abolishing the agency a centrepiece of her Democratic primary campaign against Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“ICE’s mere existence causes many New Yorkers to live in daily fear that they will lose their family,” Nixon said in a statement afterward. “I can think of no better description than to call ICE a terrorist organisation, and I will wear any criticism from Mike Pence as a badge of honour.”

Some commentators, such as Fox News host Tucker Carlson, have suggested Ocasio-Cortez’s shocking win is pushing establishment Democrats further to the left on the issue, likely leading to more top members of the party calling for ICE to be abolished in the near future.

Like Pence, the rest of the Trump administration is taking a fervently pro-ICE stance – especially President Donald Trump.

“We’re not abandoning ICE and we’re not abandoning our law enforcement,” Trump said at a dinner in West Virginia on Tuesday.

The Trump administration has claimed getting rid of ICE would cause a drastic rise in illegal immigration and, in turn, crime.

But critics argue ICE is a draconian entity and point to the fact it’s still quite a young agency (it was established in 2003 after the September 11 terror attacks) in contending its elimination wouldn’t change things dramatically.

Moreover, research shows the Trump administration’s frequent association between immigration and crime is hyperbolic. Immigration populations in the US have grown in the past several decades, while the national rate of violent crime has declined significantly since 1980, for example.

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