Ayanna Pressley Says She Wants to Abolish ICE

The city councilor and congressional candidate says it's time to defund the agency.


photo via State House News Service

Ayanna Pressley, the Boston city councilor and Congressional candidate, says she wants to abolish ICE, saying it’s time to defund the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

In doing so, she joins a small but growing cohort of Democrats who will not just condemn the actions of the force that rounds up and deports undocumented immigrants, but will call for dismantling it.

“Our immigration system is fundamentally broken and ICE’s role in supporting the existing system – including separating families seeking refuge in the United States and conducting indiscriminate deportation raids in our communities – is creating an atmosphere of toxic fear and mistrust in immigrant communities,” she said in a statement.

In the announcement, she notes that ICE has been around for fewer than 20 years (it was founded in the Bush era in 2003) and called for its non-deportation-related functions—combating child trafficking and money laundering—to continue under the purview of other existing agencies.

Spurred by the crisis at the border that has riled up opponents of the president’s immigration stance, some Democrats running this year have made comments similar to Pressley’s, among them Cynthia Nixon, who is challenging Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primary for the New York governor’s race. Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern over the weekend said at a town hall it was time to “get rid of” the agency.

Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator and prominent progressive voice, did not endorse the “abolish ICE” movement when asked about it this weekend.

Pressley this year is challenging long-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano, a fellow Democrat. Her announcement comes just as her opponent returns from a trip to the border to visit immigrant detention facilities, where he called the Trump administration’s policies “unacceptable and immoral” but did not call for wiping out ICE.

In a race that has been short on policy differences, the ICE issue may offer voters a pretty clear distinction between the two candidates: Do you want ICE to exist, or not?