Vice President Mike Pence on Friday continued the White House’s efforts to make a controversial border security agency a major midterm election issue, saying it arrests “criminal illegal aliens” who are “poisoning our youth.”
“The president sent me here with a very simple message: I stand here before you at a time when some people are actually calling for the abolition of ICE. In this White House, we are with you 100 percent,” Pence said of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement during remarks at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “Under President Donald Trump, we will never abolish ICE.”
Pence and Trump are eager to make the agency, its border mission and immigration big midterm campaign issues. They are banking on a hunch voters will side with the GOP’s more aggressive approach to border security and migrant policy than that expressed by many Democratic incumbents and candidates.
“Just when you thought the Democrats couldn’t move farther to the left,” some are calling for ICE to be abolished, Pence said. “Let me be clear on this point: The American people have a right to their opinions, but these spurious attacks on ICE by our political leaders must stop.”
ICE and its personnel are being “demonized,” Pence said, growing emotional when he said “attacks” on ICE officers during protests and allegedly at agents’ homes “must stop now.”
Pence took up Friday where the president left off earlier in the week.
On Tuesday night at a charity dinner in West Virginia, the president attacked Democrats, alleging they want to “abandon” all federal personnel that patrol the country’s borders.
“You have to be tough. … We need tough laws, we need fair laws,” Trump said. “But when these people come in … illegally and they’re dispersed across the country, and you see nests of MS-13. … It’s like you’re liberating towns. And we send ICE in.”
ICE and its proper role have become a major collective midterm election issue since the administration’s practice of separating some migrant families entering the country illegally so the adults can face possible prosecution has become a national crisis.
Some congressional Democrats — including potential presidential candidates like Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — say the agency is doing more harm than good and should be abolished. Other Democrats have called for both major changes within ICE or for the Trump administration to alter the policies its agents are trying to enforce.
Pence said the calls to eliminate ICE are “unacceptable” and would lead to “more violent crime,” ticking off a list of arrests of undocumented migrants who have been charged with crimes. He said ICE-made arrests have climbed nearly 100 percent in just a year.
Like his No. 2, Trump has seized on the more liberal wing of the party’s calls for ICE to be terminated all together.
“We respect ICE. … They take them out of there so fast,” Trump told Fox News for an interview that aired Sunday. “Like in a war, you’re liberating a town, an area. Sometimes they have to go in swinging. They don’t mind. They’re tough.”
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