Vice President Mike Pence demanded during an address to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) employees that Democrat political leaders stop attacking the agency and calling for its dismantling.
“The sad fact is, though, that it isn’t just the expression of the radical Left that has been speaking out against ICE lately,” Pence said Friday at ICE headquarters in Washington, D.C. “The truth is that opposition to ICE has moved to the center of the Democratic Party itself.”
“Just when you thought Democrats couldn’t move farther to the left, leading members of the Democratic Party, including candidates for higher office, are actually openly advocating for the abolition of ICE,” he added.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called for the abolishment of ICE during a rally in Boston on June 30. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) also argued for dissolving the agency on June 28 during an interview with CNN. She elaborated on her views in a Facebook post the next day.
And New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the agency should end while talking with WNYC public radio.
“Let me be clear on this point: The American people have a right to their opinions, but these spurious attacks on ICE by our political leaders must stop,” Pence said. “The type of language that is being used to describe the men and women in this agency and the work you do every day is unacceptable.”
Pence expressed concern that agency officials have been attacked and demonized at an unprecedented rate in recent weeks. He noted that protesters have targeted officials in public and online, sometimes threatening them and their families.
The vice president also praised the agency for the hard work it does to keep the border secure and communities safe. He warned that without the agency there would be an increase in illegal immigrants, more vicious gangs like MS-13, more violent crimes, more human trafficking, and more opportunities for terrorists to exploit the immigration system.
The attacks against ICE come amid a backlash over a Trump administration policy decision that caused an estimated 2,400 children to be separated from the adults who illegally brought them into the country.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the policy change May 7, saying all immigrants crossing the border illegally would be arrested and detained until prosecuted. Because children cannot be held in prison, the effect was to split families up, sometimes resulting in scenarios in which parents could not be located to communicate or reunite with their children.
An estimated 80 percent of illegal immigrants claim they are seeking asylum after they get caught crossing the border illegally. They are then detained so that their claims can be accessed. The issue becomes complicated when they have children with them because immigration officials can only hold minors for 20 days, which is not enough time to process the asylum claims.
Trump administration officials argue they are simply enforcing the law and that the previous administration encouraged illegal immigrants to bring children with them in light of the nation’s lack of enforcement. Sessions modified his original decision on June 20 and instructed officials with ICE and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to keep adults and children together pending resolution of their legal status.