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In a sign of how incendiary the nation’s immigration debate has become, some Democratic lawmakers are calling for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to be outright abolished, and President Donald Trump is being blunt about what a bad idea he thinks that is.
“You get rid of ICE, you’re going to have a country that you’re going to be afraid to walk out of your house,” Trump said in a Fox News interview on Sunday.
To understand where our members of Congress stand on this issue, we emailed the five members of San Diego County’s congressional delegation and California’s two senators a set of questions on Tuesday, and said we hoped to publish them on Thursday. Here are the questions we sent.
Here are the replies we’ve received so far. We’ll update this post with more answers as we receive them.
Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego
Do you think ICE should be abolished, split into separate agencies or adjusted in any way? If yes, why and how? If not, why not?
“Abolishing ICE won’t change President Trump’s disastrous immigration policies — the cruel practice of separating and detaining families comes from the top. I oppose these and other brutish tactics, such as raiding workplaces and targeting undocumented immigrants at sensitive locations. This directive from the White House has diverted personnel and resources at ICE from their primary responsibilities — narcotics enforcement, investigating cybercrimes, human smuggling, firearms smuggling, and counterterrorism.
“What needs to change is the way President Trump views families, individuals, and children who come to the U.S. in search of safety and better lives as our ancestors did.”
What do you think of how ICE operates currently? Are you satisfied with its performance? If so, why? If not, why not?
“I strongly disagree with the current detention and deportation operations, which came from Trump's Executive Order that directed ICE to seek out all undocumented immigrants for deportation and rescinded existing enforcement policies that conflicted with the new directive. Previous administrations focused enforcement activity on removing national security threats, human and drug traffickers, gang members, and convicted felons.”
“Now, the Trump administration is pursuing policies motivated by hate and fear that divert money and resources away from addressing real threats. Separating families and tearing children away from their parents; deporting veterans and their spouses; eliminating due process in immigration proceedings; and targeting hard-working individuals that are helping to grow our economy does not make us safer.
“I am also extremely concerned about reports of abuse of those being detained by ICE agents. Whether it's an investigation by Congress, the Inspector General, or another outside agency, we must get to the bottom of it, target those responsible, and hold them accountable. And then we must enforce serious reforms to make sure it doesn't continue, particularly if there is a culture of abuse. We need to know the facts and we need to put an end to it.”
What’s your top priority when it comes to the larger immigration issue?
“We need our immigration policies to reflect our values: welcoming those seeking opportunity and refuge; safeguarding the institution of family; and investing in the right technology to protect our communities from drugs and crime.
“To achieve this, we need to stop wasting time on partisan bills that have no chance of passing. In 2013, an overwhelming majority of Senators passed a bill that provided a 13-year path to citizenship for most undocumented immigrants, raised the cap on visas for high-skilled workers, established a new visa program for farm workers, hired more Border Patrol Agents, and invested billions to increase the use of advanced technology at the border. Unfortunately, the bill never got a vote in the House and Congress hasn’t revisited the conversation since.
“We should focus on bipartisan proposals to address the immediate problems — pass the USA Act to modernize our border security and give certainty to Dreamers.”