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Kirsten Gillibrand Calls to End ICE: ‘We Should Protect Families That Need Our Help’

Dennis Carter

"I believe that it has become a deportation force. And I think you should separate out the criminal justice from the immigration issues," Gillibrand said.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), days after a first-of-its-kind congressional bill to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was announced in the U.S. House of Representatives, said Friday that lawmakers should “get rid of” and “reimagine” the agency.

Gillibrand in a Friday morning interview with CNN derided ICE as a “deportation force” that isn’t “working as intended,” while the Trump administration uses the agency to enforce its “zero-tolerance” immigration policy, which has led to taking immigrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We believe that we should protect families that need our help,” said Gillibrand, the first senator to back ending ICE, after Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) stopped short of calling for the agency’s total abolition. “That is not what ICE is doing today.”

“I believe that it has become a deportation force. And I think you should separate out the criminal justice from the immigration issues,” Gillibrand said. She was one of dozens of senators this month to back legislation that would have stopped President Trump’s policy of separating immigrant families and putting children in internment camps. Trump eventually signed an executive order claiming to end the family separation policy. 

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Gillibrand went farther than Harris had gone in a June 24 interview with MSNBC. “I think there’s no question that we’ve got to critically reexamine ICE and its role and the way that it is being administered and the work it is doing,” Harris said. “And we need to probably think about starting from scratch.”

Gillibrand in May introduced a bill that would bolster “accountability and transparency” within ICE and Customs and Border Protection, whose union has long backed the president’s immigration policies. The legislation would establish a formal record-keeping system for the agencies, requiring officials to record every time they question someone. 

Amid public backlash against ICE, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) said Monday that he would introduce a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives to “abolish ICE and crack down on the agency’s blanket directive to target and round up individuals and families.”

Pocan’s announcement came after a trip he took to Texas detention centers, where immigrant children taken from their families were held in “cages,” he said, reported Isthmus, a local alt-weekly.

People across the United States, including at ICE headquarters in Washington, D.C., have protested the agency’s draconian tactics in recent days. Protesters this week occupied an ICE facility in Oregon before federal officers removed them on Thursday. Seven in ten respondents to a March 2017 CNN/ORC poll said the federal government should not “attempt to deport all people currently living in the country” without documentation.

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