A group of progressive House Democrats introduced a bill Thursday that would abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency within one year, although the legislation has little to no chance of becoming law.
Reps. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Adriano Espaillat of New York put forth the Establishing a Humane Immigration Enforcement System Act, which would eliminate ICE and set up a commission to come up with a “human immigration system that upholds the dignity of all individuals.”
There has been a growing call from immigration rights activists and some Democratic lawmakers to abolish the agency since the White House began its “zero tolerance” policy on immigration, which aims to detain and prosecute anyone who enters the U.S. illegally. But that approach led to the separation of migrant families crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and images of small children taken from their parents sparked outrage and energized critics of the Trump administration.
Under pressure, Trump ended the separation policy and the administration is working to reunite the families but the anger against ICE among many progressives continues to rage.
Despite the grassroots movement against ICE, the legislation introduced Thursday has almost no chance of becoming law with Republicans in charge of all three branches of government. Even if the Democrats were able to take control of the House after the midterm election, centrist members of the party would be unlikely to back the move.
Pocan, Jayapa and Espaillat said ICE was established after 9/11 with the core mission of preventing another terrorist attack on the U.S.
“However, since then, ICE has become synonymous with immigration raids, home invasions, family separation, abusive detention practices, and chronic noncompliance with the law,” they wrote. “The agency is now failing to perform its core mission and that the best path forward would be to end it and start fresh.”
The representatives blamed President Donald Trump for much of the current problems they see with ICE.
“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. “The President is using ICE as a mass-deportation force to rip apart the moral fabric of our nation.”
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House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., called Democrats’ push to abolish ICE “the craziest position I have ever seen” and said it showed that “they are out of the mainstream of America.”
“This is the agency that gets gangs out of our communities, that helps prevent drugs from flowing into our schools, that rescues people from human trafficking,” Ryan said.
Last week, Vice President Mike Pence called the movement to shut down ICE “outrageous” and “irresponsible.”
“We are with you 100 percent,” Pence said during a July 6 visit to ICE headquarters. “Under President Trump, we will never abolish ICE.”
The bill would establish a 17-member commission that would include eight members of Congress and nine representatives from immigrants’ rights organizations. The commission would be tasked with making sure that federal agencies are all enforcing immigration laws humanely and constitutionally, documenting any ICE abuses and making a report of its recommendations to Congress.
The bill says that “any essential functions carried out by ICE that do not violate fundamental due process and human rights” will be transferred to other government agencies.