May 22, 2024
Several elected Democrats called for ICE to be abolished, broken up or “terminated" during former President Donald Trump's tenure in the White House, but are now silent.

A handful of high-profile Democrats in the Senate and House previously supported the notion of abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — the agency tasked with enforcing immigration law in communities and at the border.

Despite their previous calls for ICE to be scrapped, there has been little resistance or pushback from Democrats about ICE enforcement under President Biden as the border crisis continues to wreak havoc on U.S. citizens, cities and communities.

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — two Democrats who sought their party’s nomination for president in 2020 — are prominent leaders who previously led calls for ICE to be abolished outright, or broken up during former President Donald Trump’s tenure in the White House.

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Democrats who called for ICE to be abolished

Several Democrats called for ICE to be abolished during Trump’s tenure in the White House. (Getty Images)

In 2018, during an appearance on CNN, Gillibrand said: “I don’t think ICE today is working as intended. . . . I believe that it has become a deportation force, and I think you should separate the criminal justice from the immigration issues.”

“I think you should reimagine ICE under a new agency with a very different mission and take those two missions out,” she added at the time. “We believe that we should protect families who need our help and that is not what ICE is doing today, and that’s why I believe you should get rid of it, start over, reimagine it and build something that actually works.”

Warren also took issue with the agency in 2018, writing in a Facebook post in June 2018: “[Trump’s] deeply immoral actions have made it obvious that we need to rebuild our immigration system from top to bottom, starting by replacing ICE with something that reflects our values.”

Though he didn’t directly call for ICE to be abolished, a 2019 plan released by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats and sought the party’s nomination for president in 2016 and 2020, included breaking up ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Deportation and enforcement would return to the Department of Justice, customs matters to the Treasury, and naturalization and citizenship to the State Department under Sanders’ proposal.

Bernie Sanders during hearing

A 2019 plan released by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., included breaking up ICE and CBP. ((AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File))

Several House Democrats also called to “terminate” ICE under Trump and expressed their support for the agency to be “abolished.”

House Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wisc., introduced legislation in 2018 that would have led to ICE being “terminated” and called for the establishment of a commission “tasked with establishing a humane immigration enforcement system.” It never received a vote in the House.

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Pocan’s bill was co-sponsored by seven other Democrats who remain in Congress, including Reps. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, Adriano Espaillat of New York, Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, Adam Smith of Washington, Nydia Velázquez of New York and Yvette Clarke of New York.

“From conducting raids at garden centers and meatpacking plants, to breaking up families at churches and schools, ICE is tearing apart families and ripping at the moral fabric of our nation. . . . The agency can no longer accomplish its goals effectively,” Pocan said at the time.

“I’m introducing legislation that would abolish ICE and crack down on the agency’s blanket directive to target and round up individuals and families,” he added.

Speaking about the effort in July 2018, Jayapal said in a statement: “There was enforcement of our immigration laws before ICE was created, and there will be after ICE, as an agency, is gone. As it stands, ICE is out of control.”

Jayapal speaking

“We should eliminate the agency as it stands and start from scratch to restructure its functions,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said of ICE in 2018. (Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The effort was also favored heavily by Espaillat, who said then that the lawmakers were “pushing to bring an end to ICE as the agency has strayed too far from its original mission, intent and purpose.”

“We are witnessing a human rights crisis, and our bill would bring forward a new model and dismantle ICE once and for all,” he added.

Joining her colleagues, Velázquez also said then that “the time has come to abolish ICE.”

Blumenauer also called for an end to the agency in 2018, insisting the Trump administration had “made the agency so toxic that it’s time to abolish ICE, and start over.”

The Oregon lawmaker’s office noted in a press release at the time that he had been “one of the first members of Congress to call for ICE to be abolished” and voted against the formation of ICE.

Like Blumenauer, McGovern also voted against the formation of ICE. In a 2018 comment, the Massachusetts congressman said, “It’s time to abolish ICE.”

“We need to start a fresh conversation,” he added at the time.

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Though she wasn’t sworn in as a member of Congress until January 2019, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., has also made calls to abolish ICE and even suggested that she would like to eliminate the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the agency.

The congresswoman’s remarks came in a July 2019 discussion with The New Yorker Radio Hour’s David Remnick about the possibility of reforming or abolishing ICE.

“Would you get rid of Homeland Security, too?” Remnick asked.

AOC

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., has made calls to abolish ICE and suggested that she would move to eliminate DHS, which oversees the agency. (Tom Williams/Getty Images)

“I think so, I think so. I think we need to undo a lot of the egregious, a lot of the egregious mistakes that the Bush administration did. I feel like we are at a very, it’s a very qualified and supported position, at least in terms of evidence, and in terms of being able to make the argument, that we never should’ve created DHS in the early 2000s,” Ocasio-Cortez responded at the time.

Ocasio-Cortez renewed her call for ICE to be abolished in January 2021, writing in a post on social media, “Abolish ICE.”

In 2022, the New York lawmaker sold “Abolish ICE” t-shirts, posters, and magnets on her official team shop that featured an ice cooler with the word “abolish” spray-painted in red above the word “ice.” Today, however, it appears the only available item in her online store with the words “abolish ICE” written on it is a hat.

In an effort to understand where they stand on the issue now, Fox News Digital reached out to every Democrat mentioned in this article who called for ICE to be abolished, broken up, or terminated. None of them responded.

ICE was established in 2003 as a component agency of DHS, following the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

ICE was formed with the passage of the 2002 Homeland Security Act to absorb the responsibilities of the former Immigration and Naturalization Service, as well as the U.S. Customs Service, which was formerly under the control of the Treasury Department.

ICE logo

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seal. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP via Getty Images)

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The agency is currently led by Acting Director Patrick J. Lechleitner, an American law enforcement officer who has served in the role since July 2023.

CBP records show that the first six months of fiscal year 2024 had 1,340,801 total encounters, exceeding the first six months of fiscal year 2023, which set a record of 1,226,254 total encounters.