Abolishing ICE is quickly becoming a popular position in the Democratic Party. New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon called for ICE to be abolished last week, and a number of congressional candidates including Deb Haaland, who won her primary in New Mexico earlier this month, have done the same. This week, three Democratic members of Congress have joined them.
On Saturday, Rep. Jim McGovern called for abolishing ICE at a town hall in Massachusetts.
“ICE has turned into something that is not about enforcing immigration laws. It has turned into something that is dedicated to ripping families apart,” McGovern said. “The time has come to, as I’ve said, to re-evaluate what we have in place, to get rid of ICE.”
On Sunday afternoon, Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon joined McGovern by calling for abolishing ICE in a Medium post:
I voted against the formation of ICE in 2002 and have been concerned with the actions of the agency for quite some time.
There is no turning back when agents of the federal government and our “commander-in-chief” lose respect for humanity and treat people like animals.
We should abolish ICE and start over, focusing on our priorities to protect our families and our borders in a humane and thoughtful fashion. Now is the time for immigration reform that ensures people are treated with compassion and respect. Not only because it is the moral thing to do, but it’s better policy and will cost less.
Blumenauer and McGovern were preceded by Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, who told Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman last Tuesday that she “would love to see ICE go”:
Sean McElwee, a writer and researcher (and sometimes Splinter contributor) who’s been tracking the issue for months, has found that in addition to the three members of Congress who called for abolishing ICE this week, at least seventeen current congressional candidates have done the same, as have Nixon and Michigan gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed.
“Abolish ICE is a demand straight from the grassroots of the progressive movement. Abolish ICE was not poll-tested or focused grouped,” McElwee told Splinter. “It shows that power of a simple, maximalist demand with a clear moral vision.”
There’s still quite a bit of work to do, obviously. None of the Democratic members of Congress mentioned as frequent 2020 candidates have endorsed abolishing ICE, including Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. On Sunday, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Sanders whether or not he agreed with Nixon’s call to abolish ICE.
“I think what we need is to create policies which deal with immigration in a rational way and a rational way. And a rational way is not locking children up in detention centers or separating them from their mothers,” Sanders responded. “What we need is Trump to sit down with members of Congress and work on a rational program which deals with a serious issue.”
McElwee, however, believes that Sanders and other Democratic presidential hopefuls, like California Sen. Kamala Harris (who called for reforming ICE this weekend) will come around on abolishing the 15-year old agency.
“I believe that every Democrat running in the 2020 Presidential Election will have to articulate a vision of a world without ICE,” he says. “We have an opportunity to create an immigration system were immigrants are not seen merely as national security threats or units of economic activity, but human beings worthy of respect.”
CORRECTION: This post originally said that Jayapal’s Democracy Now! interview where she called for abolishing ICE was on Sunday. It was on Tuesday, June 19.