President Trump lambasted Democrats Monday for opposing his immigration agenda, calling them “extremists” who “don’t mind crime.”
“Sadly, in recent months … a coalition of open-borders extremists — and to me that means crime, people that don’t mind crime — they’ve waged an unprecedented assault on American law enforcement, our greatest people, threatening ICE and Border Patrol for performing their duties admirably and for defending our country from horrible people and horrible, horrible events and crimes,” the president said at a White House event with U.S. immigration agents.
In recent weeks, several prominent Democrats have called for ICE to be either abolished or reworked.
Upstart New York congressional candidate 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said ICE should be abolished and the U.S. must “clear the path to citizenship, and protect the rights of families to remain together.”
Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, possible 2020 presidential candidates, echoed that sentiment later, Gillibrand saying ICE has become a “deportation force” and the U.S. should “build something that actually works.”
“We will not stand for the vile smears, the hateful attacks and the vicious assaults on the courageous men and women of ICE, Border Patrol and law enforcement,” Trump told the members of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection in the East Room.
Proponents of eliminating the agency say its focus has been distorted, especially by the Trump administration’s “no tolerance” policy for those who cross the border illegally, which has resulted in close to 3,000 children being separated from their guardians as the adults are prosecuted.
ICE’s critics “like to portray themselves as champions of social justice. They are not,” Trump said. “We will protect those who protect us.”
“But their radical policies are the ultimate injustice, hurting innocent Americans and spilling innocent blood,” he said. “People are dying because of their either lack of knowledge, lack of understanding or just plain stupidity.”
The “vast majority” is with you, Trump told the room. “It’s just a small group that gets a lot of publicity because they have no courage, they have no guts, they just have big, loud mouths.”
At the end of last month, Trump threatened to shut down the government this September at the end of the fiscal year if Congress does not fund the border wall.
The administration is also in a drawn-out fight with so-called “sanctuary” cities that buck federal immigration authorities. Trump has threatened to pull their federal funding if they refuse to cooperate.
About 54 percent of voters were against scrapping ICE and 25 percent supported such a move, according to a July Politico/Morning Consult poll.