Dems introduce bill to eliminate ICE, shift duties elsewhere

A group of liberal House Democrats on Thursday introduced legislation to abolish U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and shift the bureau’s various duties to other federal agencies.

The new proposal, unveiled by Democratic Reps. Mark PocanMark William PocanHouse Dems prepare legislation to shut down ICE, shift responsibilities Pence delivers pep rally for ICE agents amid Dem attacks There’s a better response to abuse than abolishing ICE MORE (Wis.), Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalHouse Dems prepare legislation to shut down ICE, shift responsibilities Progressives poised to shape agenda if Dems take back House Ex-ICE director: It should be an ‘abolish Trump’ movement, not an ‘abolish ICE’ movement MORE (Wash.) and Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralLawmakers discuss efforts to boost Latino entrepreneurship House Dems prepare legislation to shut down ICE, shift responsibilities On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Trump suggests China is easing pressure on North Korea because of trade fight | Mulvaney taps top aide as No. 2 at consumer bureau | House Republican to offer bill to curtail Trump’s trade powers MORE (N.Y.), is the first piece of legislation to tackle the thorny issue, which has become a political lightning rod on both sides of the ideological spectrum in recent weeks. 

Liberal Democrats have latched on to the “Abolish ICE” movement to protest President TrumpDonald John TrumpEx-Russia ambassador: Trump has done more damage to NATO in months than Russia has in decades Trump takes credit for increased defense spending by NATO allies, but says ‘it isn’t nearly enough’ Trump questions how Russia probe can ‘proceed’ given FBI agent’s private comments MORE’s aggressive approach to deportations, while Republicans have hammered the effort as a soft-on-crime strategy that threatens public safety.

The bill’s supporters contend that ICE, which was launched in 2003 as part of the creation of the Homeland Security Department, has become “militarized” in its approach to deporting undocumented immigrants under the Trump administration. They’re pointing to recent high-profile raids on undocumented workers, reports of sub-standard detention facilities and the ongoing saga of family separations at the border as evidence that ICE has lost its compass and needs to be scrapped.

“President Trump’s blanket directive to round up and target all undocumented immigrants underscores the unchecked power which ICE has used to terrorize our communities,” Pocan said in a statement.

“From conducting raids at garden centers and meatpacking plants, to targeting families outside churches and schools, the President is using ICE as a mass-deportation force to rip apart the moral fabric of our nation.”

The Democrats’ bill, dubbed the Humane Immigration Enforcement System Act, would create a commission to examine ICE’s various responsibilities and recommend transferring them to other agencies. Aside from enforcing immigration laws, the agency is also charged with a host of less controversial duties, including the policing of money laundering, cyber crimes, human trafficking and transnational gangs. The Democrats contend other departments — including Justice, Commerce and Health and Human Services — are better equipped to handle those responsibilities.

Congress would then be required to act on the commission’s recommendations, and ICE would be eliminated within a year.

“The agency has a very broad jurisdiction and was created to combat terrorism, human trafficking, and drugs. Yet, ICE now spends the majority of its time detaining and separating mothers and fathers seeking safety for themselves and their children,” said Espaillat.

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

Other co-sponsors of the legislation, which has little chance of advancing in the Republican-controlled House, include Democratic Reps. Earl BlumenauerEarl Blumenauer‘Paws for Celebration’ event brings rescue animals to the Capitol The farm bill fails animals in need Ex-ICE director: It should be an ‘abolish Trump’ movement, not an ‘abolish ICE’ movement MORE (Ore.), Yvette ClarkeYvette Diane ClarkePolitical stunner! Crowley knocked off by millennial challenger Amazon adopts NFL rule to boost diversity on its board Black, Hispanic lawmakers hammer Amazon directors’ opposition to diversity rule MORE (N.Y.), Jim McGovern (Mass.), José Serrano (N.Y.), Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithAmerica stands to lose as China places bets on developing world Overnight Defense: VA pick breezes through confirmation hearing | House votes to move on defense bill negotiations | Senate bill would set ‘stringent’ oversight on North Korea talks Real ‘America First’ policy includes a Marshall Plan for our neighbors MORE (Wash.) and Nydia Velázquez (N.Y.).

Once a fringe movement, the “Abolish ICE” campaign took off last month after the stunning primary defeat of Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) by 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. She’s calling for “a different name and a different approach.”

“Once ICE was established, we really kind of militarized that enforcement to a degree that was previously unseen in the United States,” Ocasio-Cortez told NPR this month.

The movement has received a cold reception from top Democratic leaders, including Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump’s latest win: More Americans are saying, ‘I quit!’ San Francisco Fed economists: GOP tax law will boost economy less than expected Red state Democrats will vote on Supreme Court pick to stay alive MORE (N.Y.) and Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D’Alesandro PelosiHouse panel moves to protect ‘religious conviction’ of adoption agencies Dem pollster: Moderate Dems stand best chance in November Trump’s latest win: More Americans are saying, ‘I quit!’ MORE (D-Calif.), who have both raised red flags about the message that “Abolish ICE” might send. They’re calling for ICE to refocus its energies, without terminating the agency altogether.

But a handful of liberal lawmakers has joined the effort, including a number of potential 2020 contenders hoping to attract support from the Democratic Party’s liberal base. The list of supporters includes New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Sens. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandLawmakers pitch dueling plans for paid family leave GOP pollster: Democrats won’t be talking about abolishing ICE in November Dems should not call for abolishing ICE ahead of November: Dem pollster MORE (N.Y.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerHawley doubles down on Supreme Court messaging against McCaskill Democrats use Mueller probe to attack Kavanaugh Red state Democrats will vote on Supreme Court pick to stay alive MORE (N.J.).

Republicans have wasted no time launching a counter-effort to characterize the “Abolish ICE” supporters — and all Democrats by extension — as soft on crime.

Delivering that message last week was Vice President Pence, who told a group of ICE employees that the administration is “with you 100 percent.”

“Under President Donald Trump, we will never abolish ICE,” he said.

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