Sen. Sanders calls for restructuring ICE as part of immigration overhaul

Sen. Sanders calls for restructuring ICE as part of immigration overhaul
© Greg Nash

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden campaign: Trump and former vice president will have phone call about coronavirus Judge slams Wisconsin governor, lawmakers for not delaying election amid coronavirus outbreak The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden offers to talk coronavirus response with Trump MORE (I-Vt.) on Tuesday called for restructuring Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as part of a broader immigration overhaul, but he stopped short of calling for the elimination of the federal agency.

In a series of tweets, Sanders escalated his rhetoric opposing ICE, part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), as more lawmakers on the left call for the agency to be abolished.

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"In 2002 I voted against the creation of DHS and the establishment of ICE," Sanders tweeted. "That was the right vote. Now, it is time to do what Americans overwhelmingly want: abolish the cruel, dysfunctional immigration system we have today and pass comprehensive immigration reform."

"That will mean restructuring the agencies that enforce our immigration laws, including ICE," he added. "We must not be about tearing small children away from their families. We must not be about deporting DREAMers, young people who have lived in this country virtually their entire lives."

Sanders's office did not immediately respond to an inquiry about whether the senator supports eliminating ICE before comprehensive immigration reform is enacted.

Sanders, who's considered a likely Democratic presidential candidate for 2020, has faced pressure and criticism from the left after he declined to call for ICE to be abolished.

"I think what we need is to create policies which deal with immigration in a rational way," Sanders said in a CNN interview on June 24. "And a rational way is not locking children up in detention centers or separating them from their mothers."

"What we need is Trump to sit down with members of Congress and work on a rational program which deals with a serious issue," he added.

The issue has become a new litmus test for Democrats, particularly those thought to be weighing a presidential run in 2020.

Democratic Sens. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandLawmakers already planning more coronavirus stimulus after T package Progressive advocates propose T 'green stimulus' plan Juan Williams: Biden's promises on women are a big deal MORE (N.Y.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenHillicon Valley: T-Mobile, Sprint complete merger | Warren pushes food delivery apps to classify workers as full employees | Lawsuit accuses Zoom of improperly sharing user data Warren calls on food delivery apps to classify workers as full employees Biden confirms he's considering Whitmer for VP MORE (Mass.) have in recent days come out in favor of abolishing ICE, while Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBiden confirms he's considering Whitmer for VP Democratic senators call on domestic airlines to issue cash refunds for travelers Biden's pick for vice president doesn't matter much MORE (Calif.) said the agency should be "critically re-examined."

Other Democrats have said they support examining the methods used by ICE, while noting that an agency is needed to enforce immigration laws.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden campaign: Trump and former vice president will have phone call about coronavirus Esper: Military personnel could help treat coronavirus patients 'if push comes to shove' Schumer calls for military official to act as medical equipment czar MORE has seized on the issue, saying Democratic support for abolishing ICE will ultimately hurt the party in November's midterm elections.