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Is the "Abolish ICE" movement significant? Is it serious?

By: James Pittman

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement was created in 2003 with the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. ICE is the agency within DHS responsible for enforcing immigration laws within the interior of the USA. Note that US Customs and Border Protection, of which the Border Patrols is a sub-unit, serves an analogous function at the nation’s borders.

Stemming in large part from the political and public relations fallout over the deliberate policy of family separations put in place by the Trump administration beginning in Spring 2018, activists on the left side of the US political spectrum began using the slogan “Abolish ICE” to galvanize public opposition to family separations and alleged inhumane practices on the part of ICE officers. Allegation have been made of, among other things, racial profiling, sexual assaults, and harassment and detention of US citizens.

Several high profile incidents have occurred, including a woman, associated with the protest group Rise and Resist, who climbed onto the Statue of Liberty on July 4, 2018 and caused a three hour standoff with police; she was subsequently arrested.  Protests also occurred nationwide outside of ICE offices at the beginning of this month.

The slogan and the movement behind it received a huge boost with the upset win of Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, a self-described socialist,who  beat longtime establishment Democrat Joe Crowley in the primary for the 14th Congressional District in New York City. The district includes much of the Bronx and Queens. 

Subsequently, other Democratic politicians have taken up the call to “Abolish ICE”, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D- MA), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI).

In response, Democratic candidates facing close races have distanced themselves from such rhetoric. Former Sec. of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson has been, unsurprisingly, critical,making clear his view that  Abolishing ICE is not a Serious Policy Proposal 

James Pittman is Co-founder of Docketwise, a leading immigration software, and was previously engaged in the private practice of US Immigration Law. He also regularly teaches Continuing Legal Education (CLE) classes on immigration law topics and legal ethics. He is admitted to practice in New York and New Jersey and is a graduate of Northeastern University School of Law.