Democrats introduce legislation to abolish ICE

It's the first legislative attempt to eliminate the agency after an increasing number of Democratic office holders and candidates have called for its abolition.

Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., speaks during a news conference on the Trans-Pacific Partnership outside of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015. CREDIT: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., speaks during a news conference on the Trans-Pacific Partnership outside of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015. CREDIT: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Three House members introduced a bill Thursday to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the first legislative attempt to eliminate the agency, as a growing number of Democrats call for its abolition.

The bill would bring together a group of experts to “provide a roadmap for Congress to implement a humane immigration enforcement system that upholds the dignity of all individuals, which includes terminating the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) within one year of enactment,” a press release from Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) said.

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According to their statement Thursday, the bill would transfer issues currently handled in some cases by ICE like organized crime, drug smuggling, and human trafficking to “other government agencies that are well-equipped to handle them and have proven track records of transparency, accountability and compliance with the law.”

The bill is currently co-sponsored by six other other representatives.

The legislation comes after the abolition of ICE has become an increasingly popular rallying cry among progressive candidates and office holders. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the young socialist who beat Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) in last month’s NY-14 primary, made eliminating ICE central to her campaign.

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In recent weeks, she’s been joined by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

Jayapal, one of the sponsors of Thursday’s bill, was the first sitting member of Congress to call for ICE’s abolition, telling Democracy Now last month, “I did a report back in 2008 on the abuses within the ICE detention system. I have a bill to reform the detention facility overall… Yes, I would love to see ICE go.”

On Thursday, Pocan, who announced last month that he would introduce legislation to kill the agency, said in Thursday’s release, “President Trump’s blanket directive to round up and target all undocumented immigrants underscores the unchecked power which ICE has used to terrorize our communities. From conducting raids at garden centers and meatpacking plants, to targeting families outside churches and schools, the President is using ICE as a mass-deportation force to rip apart the moral fabric of our nation.”

In addition working as a deportation force, ICE agents have reportedly used their power in a number of obscene ways. In January, The Outline’s Gaby Del Valle reported that asylum seekers are being sexually assaulted in U.S. detention, and an Intercept report from April found 1,224 complains of sexual abuse in immigration detention centers. Half of the accused abusers worked for ICE.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) was asked about the calls to abolish ICE Thursday, Fox’s Chad Pergram reported.

“They really have jumped the sharks on the left,” Ryan reportedly said. “It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen… It’s one of the reasons I feel really good about this fall.”