CNN commentator compares ICE to slave traders in heated debate

CNN political commentator Angela Rye compared U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials who separate families at the U.S. southern border to slave traders during a heated debate on CNN Thursday night, adding that she didn't recognize Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpAvenatti ‘still considering’ presidential run despite domestic violence arrest Mulvaney positioning himself to be Commerce Secretary: report Kasich: Wouldn’t want presidential run to ‘diminish my voice’ MORE as her president.

The commentary came during a segment on "Cuomo Prime Time" with former Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller, also a CNN commentator.

The back-and-forth began when Miller argued that it was important for the U.S. to enforce its immigration laws in securing the border and criticized Rye for wanting an "open borders" policy. Rye argued she never called herself pro-open borders.

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“Clearly you don’t want to enforce the border laws because that’s what I’ve said," Miller told Rye, a staunch critic of the president.

"No, what I don’t want to enforce is your president’s nonsense," responded Rye. "You guys know that this policy is ass-backwards. Plain and simple. You guys know this policy is inhumane, plain and simple. Like, if you just take yourselves out of it for just a moment, take off the lenses of bigotry for just a moment and imagine —“

“Okay, so now we’re getting into the name-calling?” injected Miller.

“Um, yes, we are. I’m calling this process, this procedure is absolutely based on bigotry and fearmongering. If you don’t understand that your president announced his campaign by talking about ... building a wall," replied Rye.

“My president? He’s our president, Angela. He’s the president of the United States," Miller interrupted.

“Not mine. I will never claim a bigot, ever," said Rye.

Rye continued to criticize the administration's former "zero tolerance" policy of separating families at the border that was lifted by executive order on June 20. Rye made the comparison between ICE and those who brought her ancestors from Africa on slave ships.

“I wish I could tell you from where in Africa my ancestors came from, at least part of them, but I wouldn’t know because the same bigots who are sending people back away from their children are the ones who brought my ancestors here on slave ships. Congratulations.”

“If he’s not your president, then I mean, then who is your president?” Miller pressed.

“You want to stay on that point because it has nothing to do with child separation and I’m not going to argue that," Rye said.

The debate comes amid continued controversy over detained migrants. ICE officials denied on Thursday a report that migrant fathers are protesting conditions in immigrant detention centers by going on a hunger strike.

ICE, in a statement to Reuters, said that “a small group of fathers and their children (fewer than 50 total) staged a brief sit-in” at Karnes County Residential Center in Texas, “and expressed their concerns about their immigration cases.”