For months, activists have been calling for the dissolution of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the government agency now responsible for carrying out the Trump administration’s racist “zero tolerance” immigration policy.
The proposal was largely confined to the most progressive wings of the Democratic Party until the last two weeks, when Donald Trump’s efforts to kidnap immigrant children from their homes and their parents and place them in makeshift prison camps came to light. Since then, calls to abolish ICE have grown from a whisper to a shout.
Several progressive Democratic candidates have made the abolishment of ICE a central platform of their campaigns, and a handful of incumbent Democrats have taken up the mantle as well.
This week, activists picked up even more momentum. On Tuesday, upstart progressive candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old middle class Latina from the Bronx, shocked the political world by unseating longtime Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley in a New York primary. Cortez was among the more vocal candidates calling for ICE to be shut down.
In Washington and across the country, thousands of people rallied to oppose the Trump administration’s draconian immigration policies, including in Portland where dozens of protesters set up a protest camp next to an ICE facility.
And by Saturday, Republicans were no longer able to ignore the movement’s fast-growing momentum.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), who was among a group of roughly 600 people arrested this week following a protest inside the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, DC, appeared on CNN’s this morning and explained why ICE as it currently exists is untenable.
“Right before ICE was established — which is a new agency, It’s only been established in the last many years – there was enforcement of immigration laws. And after ICE is changed as an agency, there will be enforcement of immigration laws,” said Jayapal. “What we’ve been saying is ICE has become a rogue agency. It has no accountability. No transparency.”
“We need a re-do of where these enforcement functions lie,” she added. “And we need to build into any new structure the ability for ICE as an agency or whatever the new agency is, to be accountable back to congress.
Donald Trump, who has vilified law enforcement agencies, the intelligence community, the military, and veterans, leapt to ICE’s defense via Twitter, and attacked Democrats for supporting the agency’s abolishment.
“The Democrats are making a strong push to abolish ICE, one of the smartest, toughest and most spirited law enforcement groups of men and women that I have ever seen,” he said.
The Democrats are making a strong push to abolish ICE, one of the smartest, toughest and most spirited law enforcement groups of men and women that I have ever seen. I have watched ICE liberate towns from the grasp of MS-13 & clean out the toughest of situations. They are great!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 30, 2018
It’s unclear in what fever dream Trump witnessed ICE’s liberation of town after town from the clutches of MS-13, but ICE’s competency is not in dispute: they have none.
An Inspector General’s report published this week by the Department of Homeland Security, the federal agency in which ICE is housed, found that ICE does an inadequate job of inspecting and maintaining its facilities, and fails to correct poor practices.
Presumably, those lamentable practices include incidents like one in Kansas City, Missouri, where an ICE agent assaulted an immigration lawyer who was reuniting a child kidnapped by the Trump administration with her mother. The lawyer sustained a broken foot and several cuts.