New York governor Andrew Cuomo referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents as “a bunch of thugs” during his debate with his Democratic primary challenger Cynthia Nixon on Wednesday night.
“New York state is the state that is suing Donald Trump for ripping babies from the arms of the mothers. New York state is the state that said we will not cooperate with ICE, they’re a bunch of thugs,” Cuomo said to raucous applause. “We said we will sue them if they violate any criminal laws in the state of New York.”
Cuomo has been pushed increasingly to the left on a range of policy issues, including immigration enforcement, by his novice political opponent, who has referred to ICE as a “terrorist organization.”
Prominent Democrats, including Senators Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Cory Booker, have begun to advocate the abolition of ICE in the wake of the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance immigration-enforcement policy, which resulted earlier this year in the separation of some 2,000 children from their parents.
Cuomo sent a cease-and-desist letter to ICE in April after the agency conducted a raid in New York City that resulted in the detention of 225 suspected illegal immigrants. According to ICE, 180 of those arrested had outstanding criminal convictions or pending charges. At the time, the governor alleged that many of the arrests occurred on private property absent the requisite warrants.
“I believe ICE has been politicized, if not directly then indirectly,” Cuomo said at a press conference announcing the cease-and-desist letter. “When you politicize law enforcement, now you are in a very bad place, and you are over the line. And whether that happens directly because [agents] are being told, or indirectly because they believe they’re following the spirit and the tone of the administration, that is a frightening place, and that is un-American.”
Former U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) acting director Tom Homan responded to Cuomo’s charge during a Thursday morning appearance on Fox News.
“It is personal. And I’m not going to sit here and call him names. I did plenty of that last night under my breath,” Homan said. “But what he’s saying — his actions are disgusting.”
“To call ICE agents thugs — think about it. These are men and women who are fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters, sons and daughters that chose to enforce laws in this country,” he continued. “Strap a gun to their hip everyday. Put a Kevlar vest to go out there in the community and protect America and protect the community. He calls them thugs. Actually, ICE arrests thugs.”
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