McConnell: 'I Will Not Be Intimidated' by 'Socialists Who Apparently Prefer Open Borders'

July 13, 2018

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said Friday that he will not be intimidated by protesters who confront him calling for the abolition of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Demonstrators shouting "abolish ICE" confronted McConnell as he was leaving a restaurant in Kentucky on Saturday.

The incident came after protesters associated with the Democratic Socialists of America harassed Republicans and other government officials over the Trump administration's immigration policies in recent weeks, while some Democrats have called for abolishing ICE. McConnell dismissed their demands for "open borders" and said it is worrisome that some Democratic senators would entertain the notion.

"Let's understand what they are suggesting here: Getting rid ICE, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and having no one at all patrol the borders," he said at a press conference. "What I worry about is that that point of view seems to be moving into the United States Senate."

McConnell went on to name Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), and Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) as "credible Democratic United States senators" taking this line.

Gillibrand and Warren have more explicitly argued that ICE needs to go, while Harris, once California's attorney general, has waffled, saying recently that ICE's role must be "reexamined."

As for himself, McConnell said he will not be affected by harassment.

"This is all about intimidation—not about persuasion but about intimidation. And I assure you that I will not be intimidated by these groups of socialists who apparently prefer open borders," he said.

"Honestly, I enjoyed my lunch," McConnell added, referring to Saturday's incident. "I'm just sorry that other people at the restaurant seemed to be inconvenienced by all of this."

McConnell made sure to let the protesters know he would not worry about them in the future, tweeting a threat of sorts earlier this week that he would make sure his wife is with him next time.

McConnell’s wife, Elane Chao, is the secretary of transportation and had a no-nonsense approach to protesters who came after her a few weeks ago. She had to be held back by security as immigration protesters were shouting, and she told them, "You leave my husband alone."

Democratic enthusiasm in Congress for abolishing ICE does not seem to run very deep. Three of the House Democrats who brought a bill to abolish ICE said they will not even vote for it, accusing House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) of pulling a "political stunt" by allowing the bill to be voted on.

The cause of abolishing ICE has rallied many on the left, including upstart Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who defeated one of the Democrats' House leaders, Rep. Joe Crowley (D., N.Y.), in a primary last month.