Border Security

Trump Bashes ‘Open Border Radicals’ for Attacking ICE Officers and Others

Chief executive honors immigration agents in White House ceremony and praises them as 'loved and respected'

President Donald Trump honored federal immigration authorities against “an unprecedented assault on America’s law enforcement” by “open borders radicals” Monday during a White House ceremony praising Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents.

“[They] have waged an unprecedented assault on America’s law enforcement, threatening ICE and the border patrol for performing their duties admirably and for defending our country from horrible people and horrible events and crimes,” Trump said in his remarks to the audience, which included many ICE and CBP agents and officials.

“In major cities across the nation, these open border radicals have blocked access to ICE buildings, defaced public property, and threatened public safety. And what you read in the newspapers and hear on the news is nothing compared to the way it really is,” the chief executive said.

“You’re being demeaned by people who have no idea what strength is,” Trump said. “It’s just a small group that gets a lot of publicity because they have no courage, no guts. They just have big loud mouths, and we don’t want to put up with that. And I just want you to know that you’re loved. You’re loved and respected.”

As a part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) — created in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and the Pennsylvania skies in 2001 — ICE now has more than 20,000 employees in more than 400 offices in the United States and 46 foreign countries.

The CBP is also part of DHS and has more than 60,000 employees deployed on the U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada, and also in facilities at U.S. ports of entry by road, ship, rail and air.

A recent Harvard-Harris survey found that 69 percent of registered voters in the U.S. believe ICE should not be abolished.

Trump’s remarks came in the wake of calls from multiple Democratic lawmakers and congressional candidates for ICE to be either abolished or severely reduced in terms of its authority and manpower.

His remarks also came amid the continuing controversy in the mainstream media over his administration’s aggressive enforcement of existing immigration laws, including those that require illegal immigrants arrested by federal agents to be deported promptly.

Trump is also pushing Congress to reform the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, created by President Barack Obama’s 2012 executive order, and also to end both chain migration of families and a government program that awards visas by lottery instead of by identifying immigrants with skills needed in this country.

Related: Hysteria Aside, Losing Track of Immigrant Kids Nothing New

Trump noted that he sent a letter to state and local leaders across the country Monday, asking them to pledge their support and cooperation with the officers and agents of ICE and CBP.

The Democratic Party’s newest rising star, 28-year-old New York Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has  made abolishing ICE one of the central issues of her campaign. She came out of nowhere earlier this year to upset 11-term Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) in the June Democratic primary.

“You’re being demeaned by people who have no idea what strength is. It’s just a small group that gets a lot of publicity because they have no courage, no guts.”

Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) are also among the leading Democratic politicians to embrace abolishing ICE. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) has introduced legislation to dismantle the agency and to establish a commission to create an alternative to the present immigration system.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has also expressed support for shutting down ICE, a position that prompted Trump to ridicule him during the White House event for saying America “was never that great,” a comment that has faced a tidal wave of backlash.

Trump’s push for stricter immigration enforcement has sparked much of the controversy around ICE. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced May 7 that all immigrants crossing the border illegally would be arrested. But the policy resulted in an estimated 2,400 children being separated from the adults who illegally brought them into the country.

Related: Critics Are Wrong, Illegals’ Kids Being Well Cared for, Sessions Says

Trump administration officials argue they are simply enforcing the law, unlike the last administration, which instead encouraged illegal crossings. Many of the illegal immigrants arrested at the border with children then ask for asylum, a process that can take longer than the 20 days federal officials can hold minors.

Trump modified his original decision 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. The HHS has cited a 1997 court settlement that put the 20-day restriction on immigration officials.

The Obama administration released illegal immigrants in those circumstances under the promise they would return for their scheduled court date. But only a small minority of those given court dates returned as promised. Sessions said immigrants seeking asylum can keep their families intact by entering through one of the dozens of legal ports of entry.

Trump also stressed the importance of creating new border and immigration laws. Congress has been trying to do just that, but amid partisan gridlock and bickering, it has not yet been successful.

meet the author

Connor D. Wolf covers Congress and national politics and can be reached at [email protected].