by Mike Lillis · July 6, 2018
Vice President Pence on Friday hailed the work of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), delivering at its headquarters a vigorous defense of the agency — and a warning to Democratic critics calling to abolish the office altogether.
Pence hammered the Democrats seeking to dismantle the 15-year-old agency, warning that such a move would only empower violent criminals, including members of the MS-13 gang, at the expense of public safety.
“Calls to abolish ICE are not just outrageous, they’re irresponsible,” Pence said.
“The heroes of ICE are being attacked and demonized for the work that you do at an unprecedented rate in recent weeks,” he told the audience of ICE agents and officials.
“The American people have every right to engage in peaceful protest. But these threats against ICE officers and their families must stop, and they must stop now.”
Created in 2003, ICE has long been a target of immigrant rights advocates and liberal Democrats, who contend the agency is little more than a militarized deportation force that too often ignores the human component of immigration policy. Those voices have crescendoed in recent weeks, following the shocking primary defeat of Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a young Hispanic activist who made the elimination of ICE — and the reallocation of its duties — a central component of her campaign.
Democratic leaders — including Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) — have pushed back against the movement to eliminate ICE, calling instead for an overhaul of the agency to prioritize enforcement against criminals and other undocumented immigrants who might pose a threat to public safety.
Yet a handful of liberal Democrats quickly jumped on board following Ocasio-Cortez’s victory. In the House, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) is expected to introduce legislation next week that would scrap ICE and transfer its central responsibilities to other departments.
And several Democrats eying a 2020 presidential run, including New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Cory Booker (N.J.), have endorsed the idea as well.
Trump, whose tough approach to immigration enforcement was a key plank of his 2016 presidential platform, has pounced, accusing the Democrats of defending “criminals” over the American public. The White House 2019 budget request includes an additional $967 million for ICE — a bump that’s likely to be opposed by Democrats wary of the administration’s aggressive approach to enforcement.
It was that message that Pence took to ICE on Friday, attempting to carve a clear distinction between the parties when it comes to deportations and the enforcement of immigration law.
“In this White House, let me be clear: We are with you 100 percent,” Pence said.
“Under President Donald Trump, we will never abolish ICE.”
The Hill · by Mike Lillis · July 6, 2018