A growing number of elected Democrats are now on record wanting to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, a development that one immigration law expert believes has exposed the desire among many liberals to have fully open borders.
The trend started after avowed socialist Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez defeated 10-term Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., in a stunning congressional primary. Reporters discovered Ocasio-Cortez wants to abolish ICE. She publicly defended that position, saying ICE has run far off course by separating parents and children entering the U.S. illegally.
Then Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., echoed Ocasio-Cortez in supporting the abolition of ICE, accusing the agency of acting like a “deportation force.” Next, Democratic New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his solidarity as well, and “Abolish ICE” posters were frequently seen at rallies around the country over the weekend denouncing President Trump’s immigration policies.
Possible 2020 presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris are also largely embracing the idea.
Center for Immigration Studies Research Fellow Andrew Arthur helped write the homeland security legislation that created ICE in the wake of 9/11. He says the Democrats are just trying to score political points.
“This is just a political stunt. This is all political theater,” said Arthur.
“Blaming ICE for immigration enforcement is sort of like blaming the janitor for the mess that you left if you’re a member of Congress. They created the laws. They can change the laws,” said Arthur.
But Arthur firmly believes that Democrats do want open borders.
“They don’t want immigration enforcement at all. There’s no other way to explain it,” said Arthur.
He says such a policy move would lead to a human tidal wave at the southern border and a massive increase in Mexican drug cartels pushing their products across the border.
The calls for abolishing ICE come on the heels of a passionate debate the enforcement of an existing law that requires parents and children to be separated while the parents are prosecuted for an illegal border crossing. Arthur stresses ICE is doing the job it was created to do.
“Immigration and Customs Enforcement performs many critical tasks. They counter trafficking in the United States, child smuggling. They go after foreign corruption, and they enforce the immigration laws of the United States. To say that they’ve suddenly become a vast deportation force is to say they are exactly what they were when they were set up,” said Arthur.
Arthur says the immigration laws are being enforced exist for a very simple reason.
“First and foremost, the immigration laws exist to protect the wages and working conditions of working Americans. That’s not just United States citizens, but it also includes aliens who are lawfully here,” said Arthur.
Democrats are already touting legislation to abolish ICE. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., is planning legislation that is short on details but would establish a commission to determine what duties ICE should perform.
Arthur says that ambiguity is at the heart of the problem.
“They just don’t want immigration enforcement. They don’t like the idea of it but they really haven’t thought through the ramifications of their proposals or their ideas,” said Arthur.
For his part, Pocan wants borders enforced for the purposes of stopping terrorists but is staunchly opposed to removing people from the country because they came illegally.
The Democrats are looking to benefit from the family separation controversy in the midterm elections, and Arthur admits the images from the border have been difficult to watch. However, he says Democrats are in for a big surprise if they think calling for the abolition of ICE will play well all over America.
“I’m supportive of the president’s policies but the optics of it were very bad. There was no way to avoid that. [Democrats] are now taking that policy and taking it way too far to an extreme. I think that’s actually going to turn off independent voters who understand there is a reason why we have immigration laws in the United States,” said Arthur.