The GOP-controlled House passed a resolution Wednesday putting the chamber on record in supporting the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which, they say, has become a scapegoat for the left wing of the Democratic Party.
The non-binding resolution by Rep. Clay Higgins, Louisiana Republican, celebrated the work of an agency that still has the support of most Americans, but has recently come under heavy fire from Democrats over the role it plays in enforcing federal immigration laws.
“For weeks now the ‘Abolish ICE’ movement has been growing in popularity on the left, with many Democrats embracing this radical policy stance,” Mr. Higgins said. “Calls to abolish ICE are reckless, dangerous to America’s national security and threaten the well-being of our ICE agents.”
He also called the anti-ICE campaign “the latest rallying cry for open borders, the latest call to prioritize illegal immigrants over American citizens, the latest shrill cacophony from the left to vilify and demonize front-line law enforcement in America.”
The resolution passed the House on a 244-35 vote. Heeding the advice of party leaders, 133 Democrats refused to take sides, instead voting “present.”
President Trump weighed in after the vote, tweeting the “two biggest opponents of ICE in America today are the Democratic Party and MS-13!”
During the debate, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, slammed the Republican resolution, saying it failed to reunite children that have been separated from their parents were separated under Mr. Trump’s “cruel” zero-tolerance policy.
“This resolution is the equivalent of fiddling while Rome is burning,” Mr. Nadler said. “This is a humanitarian crisis. We do not have the time to waste with political stunts with this bill while the moral fiber of our country is torn apart.”
“I will be voting ‘present’ on this bill because I have no desire to play the Republicans’ immoral games right now,” Mr. Nadler said.
The resolution says the push to abolish ICE is a slap in the face to law enforcement officials and would hurt national security, leaving the nation more susceptible to the flow of drugs, terrorists and violent immigrants, including MS-13 gang members.
“The House of Representatives expresses its continued support for all United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers and personnel who carry out the important mission of ICE; denounces calls for the abolishment of ICE; and supports the efforts of all Federal agencies, State law enforcement, and military personnel who bring law and order to our Nation’s borders,” the resolution reads.
The calls to abolish ICE have become a rallying cry for liberal activists and some Democrats on Capitol Hill — including such likely 2020 presidential contenders as Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas was among the House Democrats who sided with Republicans.
Speaking on the floor, Mr. Cuellar reminded his colleagues that ICE has a broad portfolio of responsibilities that also includes tracking money laundering, international child-sex criminals, illegal gangs and human smuggling.
“ICE has become a lightning rod, quite frankly, about President Trump’s hard-line immigration policy,” Mr. Cuellar said. “The issue is not law enforcement agency and personnel. It is not the men and women who are working hard every day.”
The vote came after a handful of congressional Democrats introduced a bill this month that called for the formation of a new commission of immigration-rights activists to write up a plan for revamping the agency. It established a one-year deadline for the commission’s work and for doing away with ICE.
House Republicans had originally planned to hold a vote on that resolution, but instead sought to put Democrats on record by holding a vote on the Higgins resolution.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Virginia Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told his colleagues it is shame that ICE has gone from having broad bipartisan support to coming under intense scrutiny from the left wing of the Democratic Party.
“Now it appears they are outraged when ICE has the audacity to actually enforce the laws that we have enacted,” Mr. Goodlatte said.
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