The Democrat party is divided over whether Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) should be eliminated. For example, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who defeated a high-ranking Democrat last month in New York primary, has joined leftists and progressives for the abolition of the lead immigration agency, while establishment Dems such as Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) are skeptical. On Wednesday, Therese Patricia Okoumou -- a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo -- was among a number of protesters protesting on Liberty Island to protest against the Trump administration’s immigration policies at the base of the Statue of Liberty. Protesters unfurled a banner demanding that ICE be abolished while officers rescued Okoumou.

Among Democrats calling for the elimination of ICE are Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is running in a race for the U.S. House of Representatives after besting a long-term high-ranking Democrat in a New York primary in June. Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand are among the most prominent Democrats calling for the abolition of ICE.  

Beto O'Rourke, a Democrat who is running to replace U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) has thus far resisted pressure from advocacy groups to call for abolishing ICE. This week, an activist confronted him at a rally near Houston and asked how can he not call for the abolition of "terroristic" ICE. O'Rourke said that he favors abolishing ICE practices, but not necessarily ICE itself.

On Thursday, the White House sent out a press release vowing to “Save ICE” while warning that abolishing the agency would "erase America's borders and open the floodgates to more crime, drugs, and terrorism." It went on to say, "Calls to abolish ICE are an insult to these heroic law enforcement officers," in reference to federal immigration officials. Speaking to a crowd in Great Falls, Montana, President Donald Trump told listeners at a rally: "We want tough, strong, powerful borders and we want no crime. We are going to protect ICE. Protect ICE!"

It is Customs and Border Protection and the Border Patrol of the Department of Homeland Security that patrols the nation’s borders. That is not the job for ICE. Advocates of abolishing ICE call the agency a "deportation force" that should be incorporated into an entirely different part of the federal government rather than being eliminated entirely.

Last week, President Donald Trump commented on Fox News that he believes that immigration enforcement is a winning issue for Republicans. He told the network, "I hope they keep thinking about it, because they’re going to get beaten so badly." 

In the White House missive on Thursday, Trump was quoting to say: “To the great and brave men and women of ICE, do not worry or lose your spirit. You are doing a fantastic job of keeping us safe by eradicating the worst criminal elements.” The press release noted, “Leading Democrats in Congress have called for United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to be abolished, which would grind immigration enforcement to a halt, with devastating consequences for public safety.” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is among Democrats calling for the elimination of ICE.

“Abolishing ICE would mean open borders because it would eliminate the agency responsible for removing people who enter or remain in our country illegally, including drug dealers; gang members; and child molesters, rapists, and other sex offenders,” read the press release. It noted that in fiscal year 2017 that ICE arrested more than 127,000 aliens with criminal convictions or charges. It goes on to say:

“Criminal aliens arrested by ICE ERO in FY 2017 were responsible for:

More than 76,000 dangerous drug offenses;
More than 48,000 assault offenses;
More than 11,000 weapon offenses;
More than 5,000 sexual assault offenses;
More than 2,000 kidnapping offenses; and
More than 1,800 homicide offenses.”

The White House release said, “Calls to abolish ICE are an insult to these heroic law enforcement officers who make sacrifices every day to secure our borders, enforce our laws, and protect our safety and security.”

It warned: “Abolishing ICE would enable the hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals who illegally overstay their visa each year to remain in the United States indefinitely.”
 

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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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