“Abolish ICE” is just slogan and eliminating the deportation agency will not accomplish anything of importance, Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) said on a recent podcast.
“Abolishing ICE does nothing to resolve any…issues,” O’Rourke, who is challenging Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) for his Senate seat this November, said on ABC Radio’s Powerhouse Politics Podcast Wednesday. “It is the practices, it is the way in which we are treating our fellow human beings that needs to be changed, and that won’t come with a slogan or a bumper sticker or the abolition of one department.”
The movement to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, has been gaining traction among progressive Democrats in Congress and those running for office in recent months, especially in the wake of the Trump administration’s policy of separating families at the border. After formally implementing the policy earlier this year, Trump signed an unnecessary executive order in June, ending family separation. A judge later ordered the administration to reunite parents with their children within 30 days — or 14 days for those younger than 5 — a deadline which officials have struggled to meet.
As O’Rourke noted Wednesday, it is Customs and Border Control and Border Patrol agents who “have been apprehending” and separating families at the border, not ICE, and it is the Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Refugee Resettlement responsible for reuniting families.
But ICE is known for separating families already in the country and those in their care have consistently reported inhumane treatment.
In January, The Outline’s Gaby Del Valle reported that asylum seekers were being sexually assaulted in U.S. detention, and an Intercept report from April found 1,224 complaints of sexual abuse in immigration detention centers. Half of the accused abusers worked for ICE.
O’Rourke nonetheless refused to call for eliminating the agency this week, calling instead for a much vaguer plan that entailed “thoughtful policy that brings people from both parties together.”
O’Rourke did strongly criticize the policy of separating families at the border and criticized the glacial pace at which families are being reunited now that the policy has ended. “This is one of the most inhumane cruel things I’ve ever seen this country do and it was the decision of the president,” he said. “It is something that every one of us as Americans is now part of.”
While O’Rourke has received national attention in his quest to take down Cruz with a relatively progressive platform, his comments about the movement to abolish ICE are a stark departure from those of many other progressives in the House and progressive candidates running in the midterm elections later this year.
Earlier this month, three House Democrats introduced legislation to officially abolish the deportation agency.
“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,” Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), one of the bill’s sponsors, said in a statement. “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.”