Kirsten Gillibrand Becomes First Sitting Senator to Call to Abolish ICE

"We believe that we should protect families that need our help and that is not what ICE is doing today," said the New York Democrat during an interview with CNN.

|
Jun 29 2018, 2:20pm

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is adding her voice to the abolish ICE movement.

During a Thursday night appearance on CNN, Gillibrand told host Chris Cuomo that she aligns with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—the first-time socialist candidate who unseated a 10-term incumbent earlier this week—on the issue.

“Well, I agree with it," Gillibrand said when Cuomo asked what Democrats will do about incoming progressives whose stance it is to eliminate the agency. "I don’t think ICE today is working as intended.”

When Cuomo pressed her on the issue of abolishing ICE altogether, Gillibrand said in no uncertain terms that she supports "getting rid of it" and creating something new in its place. "I believe that it has become a deportation force," Gillibrand continued. "And that's why I believe you should get rid of it, start over, reimagine it and build something that actually works."

Gillibrand is the first sitting senator to join growing calls to eliminate the agency, which have largely been led by activists and leftist 2018 candidates up until recently.

The movement started gaining traction on the Hill on Monday, when Wisconsin Representative Marc Pocan introduced legislation to abolish ICE. Pocan said at least two other members of the House—Arizona Representative Raul Grijalva and Massachusetts Representative Mike Capuano—have said they would support the bill.

He can likely expect the backing from other fellow ICE abolitionists in the House, who so far include Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer, Massachusetts Representative Jim McGoven and Washington Representative Pramila Jayapal, who was arrested on Thursday along with some 575 people who gathered outside the Hart Senate Office Building to protest the Trump administration's immigration policies. (Gillibrand had also participated in the demonstration, coordinated by the Women's March, but wasn't arrested.)

The New York congresswoman's support for the movement to abolish ICE distinguishes her from her other peers in the Senate, notably Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and California Senator Kamala Harris, other rumored 2020 contenders who have fallen short of backing the outright termination of ICE.

When CNN's Jake Tapper asked Sanders directly if he supports the movement, Sanders skirted the question, telling Tapper: "What we need is Trump to sit down with members of Congress and work on a rational program which deals with this serious issue."

Harris drew ire for her own stance on the issue in March, when replied "well, certainly" to a question from MSNBC's Chris Hayed about whether ICE should exist. Harris has since come out with stronger statements on ICE, recently beginning to approximate an "abolish ICE" stance. “I think there's no question that we've got to critically reexamine ICE and its role and the way that it is being administered and the work it is doing,” Harris said in a Sunday interview with MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt. “And we need to probably think about starting from scratch.”

For More Stories Like This, Sign Up for Our Newsletter


At the moment, Gillibrand remains the senator with the strongest stance on the issue.

"I think you should separate out the criminal justice from the immigration issues," Gillibrand told Cuomo Thursday. "We believe that we should protect families that need our help and that is not what ICE is doing today."