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'Abolish ICE' is a political winner — for Donald Trump

'Abolish ICE' is a political winner — for Donald Trump

When President TrumpDonald John TrumpAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Pentagon: Tentative meeting between spy agencies, Biden transition set for early next week Conservative policy director calls Section 230 repeal an 'existential threat' for tech MORE makes a political miscalculation, you can usually count on his opponents becoming so unhinged that the White House is able to flip the script so that the bullseye is no longer on the president’s back but affixed squarely on his detractors. That is precisely what is happening as some Democrats around the country push to “abolish ICE,” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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As The Hill recently reported, the call to abolish ICE is quickly being adopted by Democrats who want to see their stars rise in the 2020 presidential election. Sens. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandOvernight Defense: Defense bill among Congress's year-end scramble | Iranian scientist's assassination adds hurdles to Biden's plan on nuclear deal | Navy scrapping USS Bonhomme Richard after fire Democratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Social media responds to Harris making history: 'I feel like our ancestors are rejoicing' MORE (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenCan Biden find a third way between Trumpism and Obama-era globalism? Left seeks to influence Biden picks while signaling unity Schwarzenegger says he would 'absolutely' help Biden administration MORE (D-Mass.), and Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBiden officially clinches Electoral College votes with California certification Hillicon Valley: Senate Intelligence Committee leaders warn of Chinese threats to national security | Biden says China must play by 'international norms' | House Democrats use Markup app for leadership contest voting Trump campaigns as wild card in Georgia runoffs MORE (D-Calif) have all called for the agency to be abolished or to “start from scratch.” Another likely 2020 hopeful, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), joined the chorus too.  

 

Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy calls for the prosecution of illegal border crossers, where previously “catch and release” was the standard process. Due to inadequacies with the current law on the books, a side effect was that parents who illegally crossed the border were separated from their alleged children. After several weeks of the policy, it was clear that the practice of separating parents and children was rapidly becoming an optics nightmare. The Trump administration has since ceased the practice of separating children from their parents and will now “detain families together during the pendency of immigration proceedings when they are apprehended at or between ports of entry.”

Democrats, predictably, went straight to the Nazi/fascist/inhumane playbook. However, since Trump signed his executive order ending the separation of families, Democrats have doubled down. Their continued badgering of the president and his administration on the issue of illegal immigration turns out to be vastly out-of-touch with the majority of American voters. And the campaign by some on the left to “abolish ICE,” the government entity tasked with enforcing immigration law inside the country is a political loser.

According to the latest Harvard-Harris poll, 70 percent of registered voters, including 69 percent of independents, think we need stricter enforcement of the country’s immigration laws. Sixty-nine percent of those polled said ICE should not be abolished. Further, the survey found tremendous opposition, 84 percent, to the sanctuary city practice of not notifying immigration authorities when an an illegal immigrant has been arrested for crimes and taken into custody.

Trump seems to have landed on a political winner with his “four pillars” immigration policy. This proposal, which would provide work permits and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought here as children, otherwise known as DACA beneficiaries, in exchange for ending the diversity visa lottery program, funding barrier security on the U.S. southern border, and limiting chain-migration in favor of merit-based, is supported by 63 percent of registered voters.

The takeaway for an increasing number of Americans is that the Democratic Party is insincere about enforcing our immigration laws or borders. When you strip away the hyperbole and hysteria, the campaign against ICE is, at its core, a campaign for open borders. It is so far outside of mainstream thinking, it not only plays right into the hands of Donald Trump, but it also provides Congressional Republicans with a much needed counter-balance to Democratic enthusiasm four months out from the 2018 midterms. After all, immigration will drive more Republicans to the polls than any other issue, according to Gallup, offsetting the supposed enthusiasm gap Democrats are counting on to retake one or both houses of Congress.

If Democrats fail to wise up and tone down the theatrics, Republicans will ride this issue all the way to the ballot-box.

Ford O'Connell is the chairman of CivicForumPAC, an adjunct professor at The George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management, worked on John McCainJohn Sidney McCainSmearing presidential election will turn off young voters and undermine democracy Choking — not cheating — was Trump's undoing Gabby Giffords congratulates Mark Kelly with throwback photo of her own swearing-in MORE's 2008 presidential campaign, and authored the book "Hail Mary: The 10-Step Playbook for Republican Recovery." Follow him on Twitter @FordOConnell.