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Abolish ICE: Where New York politicians stand after Trump’s ‘zero-tolerance’ immigration policy

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand recently said the federal agency should be eliminated and replaced.

Immigration activists marched outside the Nassau County Correctional

Immigration activists marched outside the Nassau County Correctional Facility in East Meadow, Saturday evening, June 30, 2018, to protest the separation of families. Similar rallies were organized around the country. Photo Credit: Danielle Silverman

A Brooklyn state assemblyman introduced a resolution Monday to urge Congress to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

In a largely symbolic move, Assemblyman Feliz Ortiz, whose district includes Sunset Park and Red Hook, is joining a growing list of New York politicians who are calling for an end to ICE. The agency, which operates under the Department of Homeland Security, was formed in 2003, in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“Congress must abolish ICE and create an agency designed to protect our borders, ending ICE’s ability to conduct horrifying raids in our towns and cities,” Ortiz said in a statement. “We need an immigration agency that works within the law and that recognizes that all people are created equal, deserve respect and must be treated with honor.”

The calls to abolish, or at least reform, ICE picked up after the public outcry over the Trump administration’s zero tolerance immigration policy that led to the separations of thousands of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as the surprise primary win by Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is running for Congress in New York’s 14th district and has made removing the agency part of her platform.

Here’s a look at what some other New York politicians are saying about abolishing ICE:

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: “I don’t think ICE today is working as intended,” she said in a CNN interview on June 28. “I believe that it has become a deportation force, and I think you should separate the criminal justice from the immigration issues and I think you should re-imagine ICE under a new agency with a very different mission . . . we believe that we should protect families that need our help and that is not what ICE is doing today and that is why I believe that you should get rid of it, start over, re-imagine it and build something that actually works.” Gillibrand was the first sitting senator to call for ICE’s abolition.

Sen. Chuck Schumer: “ICE does some functions that are very much needed,” he said, according to The Washington Times. “Reform ICE — yes. That’s what I think we should do.”

Rep. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13): Espaillat is joining other representatives to introduce legislation to abolish ICE, he said on Twitter on June 29. “I think that the agency itself is spending too much time going after families rather than going after drug dealers or terrorists,” he told NPR’s Ari Shapiro in an interview. “I think the organization needs to be looked at, restructured and have the aspect of it that deals with immigration be more humane.”

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (NY-12): During a debate with her Democratic challenger, Suraj Patel, ahead of the primary election, Maloney said the agency should be reformed or replaced with a new entity, but added that it is critical for functions like combating sex trafficking.

Rep. Nydia Velázquez (NY-7): “ICE is being used to terrorize immigrant communities and carry out President Trump’s immoral ‘zero-tolerance’ policy,” Velázquez said in a statement. “Moreover, the agency’s almost myopic focus on harassing and targeting immigrants distracts from priorities most Americans actually share — like cracking down on transnational criminals and sex traffickers. At this point, modest reforms at the margins of the agency are insufficient. The time has come to abolish ICE.”

Cynthia Nixon, candidate for governor: “ICE has strayed so far from its mission. It’s supposed to be here to keep Americans safe, but what it’s turned into is frankly a terrorist organization of its own that is terrorizing people who are coming to this country,” she said in an interview with NY1. She later tweeted, “ICE is a terrorist organization, and its egomaniacal leader is Donald Trump” and shared a link to a petition calling for the end to the agency.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: When asked if ICE should be abolished on a call with reporters, Cuomo said, ”No, I think ICE should be a bona fide law enforcement organization that prudently and diligently enforces the law.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio: “Every country needs some kind of sensible, transparent, immigration regulation. There’s no question about that. You need some kind of agency to deal with immigration,” de Blasio said on WNYCs “The Brian Lehrer Show” on June 29. “But ICE is not that, ICE has proven that it can’t be that. ICE’s time has come and gone. It is broken. ICE has been sent on a very negative, divisive mission and it cannot function in the way it is. So I think that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is right. We should abolish ICE. We should create something better, something different. But in the way it is developed it has become a punitive, negative tool for division and it is no longer acceptable.”

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