Vice President Mike Pence lauded immigration enforcement agents in an address Friday, while castigating their opponents and promising to support and enhance their mission despite a growing chorus of criticism.
Pence spoke at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters in Washington, using the occasion to shine a negative light on left-leaning politicians who have embraced the call to abolish the agency. The vice president said President Trump sent him to speak to ICE to declare the administration's unwavering support for the agency and its workforce, whom he repeatedly thanked and called “incredible patriots.”
Trump is “a leader who stands without apology with the men and women of ICE and law enforcement,” Pence said. “At a time when people are actually calling for the abolition of ICE, in this White House, let me be clear, we are with you 100 percent.”
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Pence went on to call out by name several politicians who have embraced the so-called “Abolish ICE” movement, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Mayor Bill de Blasio, D-New York City, saying the idea has made its way from the “radical left” to the “center of the Democratic Party itself.” The proposals various Democrats have advocated range from reforming the agency to rebuilding it from scratch to returning to the system in place before the creation of ICE and the Homeland Security Department, when internal enforcement was handled by the Justice Department and its Immigration and Naturalization Services agency. The movement to abolish ICE has picked up momentum in recent months as the Trump administration has come under fire for its ramped up deportations and "zero tolerance policy" at the border.
“The truth is,” Pence said, “calls to abolish ICE are not just outrageous, they’re irresponsible.” He suggested without the agency, the country would face more violent crime, gang activity, drugs in schools and illegal immigrants. The vice president said there is no place in the political debate for that proposal.
“American people have a right to their opinions,” Pence said, “but these spurious attacks on ICE by our political leaders must stop.”
He suggested the movement was leading to violence against agents, noting internal agency statistics that found attacks on employees tripled in 2017.
“The American people have every right to engage in peaceful protest,” Pence said, “but these threats against ICE officers and their families must stop and they must stop now.”
Despite the recent criticisms, Pence said the agency had the support of the nation and that tens of millions of Americans pray for the agents every day. He also noted Trump’s executive order to hire 10,000 new agents, saying, “Help is on the way.” That help could come more slowly than Pence had hoped, however, as Congress has yet to authorize or appropriate money for the new hires. ICE recently postponed a contract bid to bring on a vendor that would have helped the agency hire nearly 17,000 employees.
Still, ICE agents can rest assured that the Abolish ICE movement will never gain traction under Trump.
“The challenges you face have only strengthened the resolve of this president and this administration to stand with you every step of the way,” Pence said. “Under President Donald Trump, we will never abolish ICE.”