New ral­ly­ing call for 2020 Democrats: ‘Abol­ish ICE’

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - WEATHER - By Bill Barrow

ATLANTA » Sev­eral prom­i­nent Democrats who are mulling a bid for the White House in 2020 sought to bol­ster their pro­gres­sive cre­den­tials this week by call­ing for ma­jor changes to im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment, with some press­ing for the out­right abo­li­tion of the fed­eral govern­ment’s chief im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment agency.

Sen. Kirsten Gil­li­brand of New York said Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment, known as ICE, has “be­come a de­por­ta­tion force.”

“You should get rid of it, start over, reimag­ine it and build some­thing that ac­tu­ally works,” she told CNN late Thurs­day.

Her com­ments fol­low sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments ex­pressed by Sen. Ka­mala Har­ris of Cal­i­for­nia over the past week. In in­ter­views with mul­ti­ple out­lets, she has said the govern­ment “maybe” or “prob­a­bly” should “start from scratch” on an im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment agency.

Ver­mont Sen. Bernie San­ders, who sought the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion in 2016 and is mulling an­other run, has stopped short of his col­leagues’ calls to dis­man­tle ICE. But he has also been quick to note his vote op­pos­ing the 2002 law that paved the way for ICE to re­place the old Im­mi­gra­tion and Nat­u­ral­iza­tion Ser­vice fol­low­ing the at­tacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Housed within the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity, ICE is in charge of ex­e­cut­ing hun­dreds of fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion statutes. The de­bate over the agency’s fu­ture fol­lows the wide­spread out­cry in re­cent weeks after the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion sep­a­rated more than 2,000 mi­grant chil­dren from their par­ents. Marches are sched­uled across the coun­try Satur­day to protest the pol­icy, which Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump later re­versed.

The Demo­cratic calls to scrap the agency un­der­score the bal­anc­ing act the party is fac­ing on im­mi­gra­tion is­sues. Such rhetoric could prove un­help­ful to the 10 Demo­cratic sen­a­tors seek­ing re-elec­tion this fall in states Trump car­ried in 2016, where con­ser­va­tive views on im­mi­gra­tion pre­vail. But call­ing for an end to ICE could be a win­ner for Democrats seek­ing to rally the party’s base in the 2020 pres­i­den­tial pri­maries.

Many anti-Trump ac­tivists, who are driv­ing the Twit­ter hash­tag #abol­ishICE, have cel­e­brated the moves by Gil­li­brand, Har­ris and oth­ers.

Nelini Stamp, the na­tional or­ga­niz­ing di­rec­tor for the Work­ing Fam­i­lies Party, one of many pro­gres­sive groups that ratch­eted up its ac­tiv­ity after Trump’s elec­tion, called it a “crit­i­cal mo­ment” in the early ma­neu­ver­ings for 2020.

“Any Democrats who want to be the nom­i­nee needs to stand on the right side of this,” Stamp said. “Even if they don’t say ‘abol­ish ICE,’ they can’t not ad­dress it.”

An­gel Padilla, pol­icy di­rec­tor at the grass­roots group In­di­vis­i­ble, said ICE “ter­ror­izes com­mu­ni­ties” and that Gil­li­brand’s move “demon­strates where the pro­gres­sive base is.”

Still, not ev­ery im­mi­grant ad­vo­cacy group takes the same view.

Cris­to­bal Alex, pres­i­dent of the Latino Vic­tory Project, a po­lit­i­cal ac­tion group that backs pro-im­mi­gra­tion can­di­dates, re­jected ICE as a “lit­mus test.” But he said it’s “heart­en­ing” that im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy in gen­eral “is at the fore­front of the con­ver­sa­tion ahead of 2020.”

Alex said his group has met pri­vately with sev­eral po­ten­tial pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates.

Their fo­cus, Alex said, should be on “stop­ping the long-stand­ing cul­ture of cor­rup­tion” in U.S. im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy and “the ap­palling prac­tices” of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, not on a move that by it­self “amounts to re­brand­ing.”

J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Sen. Kirsten Gil­li­brand, D-N.Y., joins ac­tivists at the Supreme Court as Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump pre­pares to choose a re­place­ment for Jus­tice An­thony Kennedy, in Wash­ing­ton.

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