President Trump on Saturday defended Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the face of calls by some Democrats to abolish the agency, saying the agents are “doing a fantastic job” and that scrapping the agency “will never happen.”
“The Democrats are making a strong push to abolish ICE, one of the smartest, toughest and most spirited law enforcement groups of men and women that I have ever seen,” he tweeted. “I have watched ICE liberate towns from the grasp of MS-13 & clean out the toughest of situations. They are great!”
Calls to “abolish ICE,” once limited to the far-left parts of the Democratic Party base, have shifted into the mainstream of the party in response to the Trump administration’s tough policies on illegal immigration — particlarly the “zero tolerance” policy on detaining all illegal border crossers.
In New York, far-left primary challenger and ICE opponent Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s shocked the party’s establishment by beating Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y. In the days after, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Mayor Bill de Blasio have added their support to the cause.
“I believe that [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] has become a deportation force … and that’s why I believe you should get rid of it, start over, reimagine it and build something that actually works,” Gillibrand said in a CNN interview Thursday night.
“We should abolish ICE,” de Blasio said Friday morning on WNYC radio. His Democratic colleague in Albany, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is also facing pressure to back such calls after primary challenger Cynthia NIxon has called ICE a terrorist organization.
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif has said that the U.S. should consider “starting from scratch” while Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., announced Monday that he would be introducing a bill to abolish the agency.
But, while it was unlikely to gain much traction on the right, Trump on Saturday backed ICE agents and said there was “zero chance” of ICE being abolished.
“To the great and brave men and women of ICE, do not worry or lose your spirit. You are doing a fantastic job of keeping us safe by eradicating the worst criminal elements,” he said. “So brave! The radical left Dems want you out. Next it will be all police. Zero chance, It will never happen!”
Republicans and immigration hardliners have welcomed the Democratic shift on the issue, believing that it spells electoral victory for the GOP outside of Democratic enclaves like New York and California.
“Based on the last week, Democrats apparently want to campaign on open borders, mass migration, & abolishing ICE,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., tweeted this week. “Give them points for honesty. Let’s vote.”