Socialist Mayor Bill de Blasio joined a growing list of Democratic figures Friday who want to abolish the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. While he thinks the United States needs some sort of immigration enforcement agency, de Blasio said “ICE’s time has come and gone.”
“We should abolish ICE, we should create something better, something different,” de Blasio said in his weekly appearance on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show.” “But in the way it’s developed, it has become a punitive, negative tool for division and it’s no longer acceptable.”
ICE was established in 2003 as one of several agencies under the then-newly created Department of Homeland Security. Some progressives argue it has morphed into an out-of-control deportation force that tramples on immigrants.
The growing movement to get rid of the agency has recently gained mainstream support from politicians such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old democratic socialist who defeated U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley in this week’s Democratic congressional primary. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon supports abolishing ICE, but her primary opponent, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, does not.
New York’s junior U.S. senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, declared herself an ICE abolitionist on Thursday, saying the agency should be reimagined “under a new agency with a very different mission.”
“I believe that it has become a deportation force, and I think you should separate out the criminal justice from the immigration issues,” Gillibrand told CNN.
Immigrant-rights advocates have been vociferous in their criticism of ICE under President Donald Trump’s administration. The agency has said it will arrest anyone in the U.S. illegally, and figures have shown an uptick in arrests of people without criminal convictions.
New York City is one of several so-called sanctuary cities that limit cooperation between local law enforcement and ICE.
The NYPD in many cases does not honor ICE’s requests to hold arrested immigrants for deportation. But local authorities do hold immigrants if they have been convicted of one of serious or violent crimes within the last five years, or if ICE has a warrant signed by a judge.
The mayor’s support for abolishing ICE does not mean the city will stop turning over convicted immigrants, his press secretary, Eric Phillips, said on Twitter.
“Every country needs some kind of sensible, transparent immigration regulation,” de Blasio said. But ICE “has proven it can’t be that,” he added.
“ICE has been sent on a very negative, divisive mission and it cannot function the way it is,” the mayor said.
An ICE spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on de Blasio’s remarks.