Dems introduce bill to eliminate ICE, shift duties elsewhere

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 PocanBlue wave poses governing risks for Dems Trump Jr., Dem congressman spar over Ellison's association with Farrakhan Dems seek ways to block Trump support for Saudi-led coalition in Yemen MORE (Wis.), Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalBlue wave poses governing risks for Dems Dem rep: Why shouldn’t Americans believe Trump is as corrupt as his friends? Sunday shows preview: Trump faces fallout after Manafort flips MORE (Wash.) and Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralOvernight Defense: Officials rush to deny writing anonymous op-ed | Lawmakers offer measure on naming NATO headquarters after McCain | US, India sign deal on sharing intel Dems plan resolution to withdraw US forces from Yemen civil war Impeachment debate moves to center of midterm fight 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 TrumpTrump rallies in Nevada amid Supreme Court flurry: 'We're gonna get Brett' Trump: 'Good news' that Obama is campaigning again Trump boosts Heller, hammers 'Wacky Jacky' opponent in Nevada MORE’s aggressive approach to deportations, while Republicans have hammered the effort as a soft-on-crime strategy that threatens public safety.

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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 immigrants under the Trump administration. They’re pointing to recent high-profile raids on undocumented workers, reports of substandard 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 BlumenauerOvernight Defense: Mattis dismisses talk he may be leaving | Polish president floats 'Fort Trump' | Dem bill would ban low-yield nukes Dems introduce bill to ban low-yield nukes Congress just failed our nation’s veterans when it comes to medical marijuana MORE (Ore.), Yvette ClarkeYvette Diane ClarkePoll shows Rep. Luis Gutiérrez as front-runner in Chicago mayoral race Overnight Defense: Officials rush to deny writing anonymous op-ed | Lawmakers offer measure on naming NATO headquarters after McCain | US, India sign deal on sharing intel Dems plan resolution to withdraw US forces from Yemen civil war MORE (N.Y.), Jim McGovern (Mass.), José Serrano (N.Y.), Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Mattis dismisses talk he may be leaving | Polish president floats 'Fort Trump' | Dem bill would ban low-yield nukes Dems introduce bill to ban low-yield nukes Dems seek ways to block Trump support for Saudi-led coalition in Yemen 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 late last month.

The movement has received a cold reception from top Democratic leaders, including Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle READ: President Trump’s exclusive interview with Hill.TV The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump slams Sessions in exclusive Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh accuser wants FBI investigation MORE (N.Y.) and Rep. Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiTrump boosts Heller, hammers 'Wacky Jacky' opponent in Nevada Lawmakers consider easing costs on drug companies as part of opioids deal New grounds for impeachment? House Dem says Trump deserves it for making society worse 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 presidential 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 GillibrandTeen girls pen open letter supporting Kavanaugh accuser: We imagine you at that party and 'see ourselves' Poll: Most Massachusetts voters don't think Warren should run for president in 2020 The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — GOP again has momentum on Kavanaugh rollercoaster MORE (N.Y.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerPoll: Most Massachusetts voters don't think Warren should run for president in 2020 Trump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle Booker: It would be ‘irresponsible’ not to consider running for president MORE (N.J.).

Republicans have wasted no time launching a countereffort 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.

Read more from The Hill: 

House GOP to bring Dem ‘abolish ICE’ bill up for vote