AUSTIN (KXAN) — Calls to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement is a rocky road between activists who want deportations to stop and Democratic officials who want to see fellow Democrats elected.
Some Texas Democratic leaders say campaigning on one issue is a sure way they will lose this November Election. Immigration activists are pushing them to do it anyway.
Some of Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke’s most impassioned words this week came after a confrontation with a Texan at a Houston area town hall who wants ICE abolished.
“So don’t lecture me about the border and immigrants and things that we need to do,” he told Sarahy Garcia after speaking at length about his experience in El Paso and in the infamous tent city of Tornillo.
“Abolish ICE, Abolish ICE,” Garcia screamed when the crowd started to cheer. She streamed her question on Facebook live.
Cristina Parker with Grassroots Leadership is calling for eliminating the agency as well. She thinks thousands of officers looking for people to deport is too drastic, since living in America without legal status is a civil violation, not a criminal offense.
“We’re talking about people’s families. We’re talking about the people who live next door to you. The idea of someone out there hunting them down is terrifying,” said Parker.
Congressman Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, told KXAN he understand the concerns about ICE.
“I’ve dealt with them personally. I’ve seen their unresponsiveness, their indifference in carrying out Donald Trump’s wrongful policies,” he said.
However, Doggett says the United States needs some type of agency to police its immigration laws. Campaigning on abolishing ICE, he says, would hurt lawmakers fighting against President Trump’s policies at the ballot box.
“I think the call for abolition of ICE has played somewhat into his hands with tweets suggesting that Democrats want to turn over communities to MS-13 and we’ll be after abolishing the police next. That is nonsense,” said Doggett.
Parker in short says advocating for immigrants and advocating for Democrats are not the same.
“The cause of the Democrats, isn’t our cause,” said Parker.
Residing in the States without legal status is a civil violation, but crossing the border illegally is a crime — a misdemeanor. Crossing the border illegally after being deported is a felony.
ICE has only been around for 15 years. It was actually created after the Sept. 11 attacks to enhance security.
Before then, the Immigration and Naturalization Service had regulated immigration since 1933.
But the Homeland Security Act of 2002 dismantled it and separated the former agency into three new entities. The investigative and enforcement functions of the INS including deportation and intelligence were moved into ICE.