Democrats Are Split on Calls for Abolishing ICE

Sen. Ben Cardin and other top leaders decline to support nixing the very agency the party demanded be created in 2002

Some Democratic lawmakers have declined to jump onto their party’s new bandwagon in calling for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to be abolished. All of this is occurring as the party struggles with what looks like the verge of a split on its 2018 midterm election message.

“My priority is to abolish this administration’s policy on immigration that separates parents from children and that denies people coming to this country to seek asylum for domestic abuse or gang violence,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) replied when CNN’s John Berman asked him Tuesday on “New Day” if he believed “ICE should be abolished.”

“It’s the Trump policy that’s the problem at our border,” Cardin insisted.

But when Berman asked if “calling for the abolition of ICE” is “helping change” President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, Cardin refused to endorse the abolition of ICE.

“So we — we’re going to have an agency, the question is what policy does that agency carry out?” Cardin said. “That needs to change.”

When Berman tried again to pin Cardin down on a “yes or no” for whether he wants “ICE to exist,” Cardin waffled.

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“We have to have an agency at the border. I want that policy to reflect not what President Trump has done,” Cardin replied.

Berman tried once more to press Cardin, asking, “It could be ICE, it could be another agency in the future?”

Cardin only insisted the U.S. still must “have an agency at the border” and will “always” have “an agency at the border.”

Ironically, ICE is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which was created following the 9/11 terrorist attacks by the Homeland Security Act of 2002, which consolidated 22 agencies under the one umbrella. Democrats in Congress were the first to insist on creating the consolidated structure. President George W. Bush and most congressional Republicans opposed consolidation.

Calling for ICE’s abolishment was a fringe position before last week, when self-proclaimed socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pulled off a stunning upset victory over 10-term incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) in the Democratic congressional primary. Other Democrats quickly began following suit.

Related: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Victory Is a Canary in the Dems’ Coal Mine

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), for example, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that she, too, supports abolishing ICE because “it has become a deportation force, and I think you should separate the criminal justice from the immigration issues.”

“We believe that we should protect families who need our help, and that is not what ICE is doing today,” Gillibrand added. “That’s why I believe you should get rid of it, start over, reimagine it and build something that actually works.”

But not all Democrats are agreeing to call for the ditching of ICE so readily.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) refused to support nixing ICE during an interview Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” when she said, “I think there’s a lot of other things we can do before we get to that point.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that “we are always going to need immigration enforcement.” She noted that “what has to change are the policies, and the people that are making these policies are making horrendous decisions like separating kids from their parents.”

Even the Congressional Hispanic Caucus warned in a set of talking points, obtained by The Daily Beast on Friday, that calls for “abolishing ICE without changing President Trump’s disastrous immigration policy will not solve the problem.”

PoliZette writer Kathryn Blackhurst can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter.

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