Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic Socialist upstart who beat Democratic House leader Joe Crowley (N.Y.) in a congressional primary, said Wednesday that she wants to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement and close the agency’s "black sites."
CNN’s Poppy Harlow asked the 28-year-old Ocasio-Cortez about her campaign stance to abolish ICE, and the candidate explained it by decrying so-called black sites holding children. The detention centers are operated by the Department of Homeland Security, and they do not meet the traditional definition of "black sites," which hold high-security prisoners and conduct unacknowledged and classified projects.
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"What we need to realize and remember is that ICE was established in 2003 right at the same time as the PATRIOT act, the AUMF [Authorization for Use of Military Force], the Iraq war, and we look back on a lot of that time as a mistake now. And I think that ICE is right there as a part of it," she said. "Its extrajudicial nature is baked into the structure of the agency and that is why they're able to get away with black sites at our border [and] with the separation of children."
Harlow questioned her on whether DHS is really managing "black sites," and the congressional candidate said she used that term because members of Congress do not have free access to the facilities.
"Actually we were just hopping off MSNBC and they were talking about it," she said. "Basically what we have is people – even our own members of Congress – are not able to access what is happening in these sites."
She said this allows "human-rights abuses" to occur.
"When we know children are kept and human abuse rights are happening without any sort of transparency or accountability, that is where we're at right now," she said. "That is simply what is happening."
Ocasio-Cortez said a new immigration agency she’d support would focus on safe passage and not criminalize those crossing the border.
"We are committing human-rights abuses on this border in separating children from their families and that, you know, is part of the structure of the agency," she said. "We can replace it with a humane agency that is directed towards safe passage instead of the direction of the criminalization."