Democrat Presidential Candidates Drop 'Abolish ICE' from Campaign Speeches

Advocates display 'Abolish ICE' banner / Getty Images
May 15, 2019

Buzzfeed reported on Wednesday leading Democrat presidential candidates have stopped using the "Abolish ICE" slogan on the presidential campaign trail in reference to calls from progressive activists to dismantle the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Following the surprise primary victory of Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, leading national Democrat voices began to co-opt some of the congresswoman's more radical campaign slogans including "Abolish ICE." But the Buzzfeed report suggests Democrats have dropped the slogan in favor of "more popular immigration issues, like ending child separation at the border."

Senators Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Kirsten Gillibrand all voiced their support for the slogan in 2018 with Gillibrand going so far as to say it should be the "first thing" Democrats do if they retook Congress that fall.

Sanders voiced his support for the position in a Twitter thread in July of 2018 while Warren in a Facebook post around the same time stated she wanted to "rebuild our immigration system from top to bottom."

As the slogan became more popular with Democrat politicians, Republican candidates and committees began to use the phrase to paint Democrats as holding radical positions on immigration and border security during the 2018 midterm elections. A poll from that fall found the position was not even supported by a majority of Democrats as only a quarter of Democratic voters approved of the "Abolish ICE" message.

Buzzfeed contacted the four Democrats who embraced the slogan to see if they still supported the movement.

The Sanders and Harris campaign did not return requests from Buzzfeed while Warren's campaign, which has received headlines for their robust policy proposals, did not respond directly to the question about whether Warren had a plan to "replace" ICE.

The Gillibrand campaign told Buzzfeed Gillibrand never explicitly said she wanted to "abolish ICE" but Buzzfeed reported the Senator's own Twitter account included that language in a tweet in June of 2018.

The Buzzfeed report included numerous quotes from progressive activists who said they remain intent on forcing Democrat candidates to take a position on the immigration agency.

Juan Prieto, a communications strategist for a California based immigration group, complained about how the slogan has been dropped by leading national Democrats and said, "Democrats aren’t bold enough for vision, they'd rather fight fire with a water gun."