Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) said her past comments about eliminating Immigration and Customs Enforcement have been taken out of context. She suggested commentators misconstrued her words by not focusing on her call to replace ICE with a reformed agency.
"Give it a new name and a new directive," the New York senator told the editorial board of The Post-Star in an effort to clarify her view.
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In June, Gillibrand told CNN’s Chris Cuomo she does not think ICE is working as intended. "I believe that it has become a deportation force, and I think you should separate out the criminal justice from the immigration issues, and I think you should reimagine ICE under a new agency with a very different mission, and take those two missions out."
She then said the U.S. should "get rid of" and "reimagine" the agency. "And so we believe that we should protect families that need our help, and that is not what ICE is doing today, and that’s why I believe you should get rid of it, start over, reimagine it, and build something that actually works," she said.
Gillibrand told The Post-Star she took the view that the agency needs to be reimagined after receiving a letter from ICE agents. "Local law enforcement will not work with them. Local elected officials aren’t working with them," she said.
ICE, which was created in 2003 as part of the Department of Homeland Security, is tasked with enforcing "federal laws governing border control, customs, trade and immigration to promote homeland security and public safety," according to the agency's website.
Other Democratic lawmakers have also called for ICE to be abolished, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), who said ICE needs to be replaced "with something that reflects our morality and that works."
New York Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon referred to agency as a "terrorist organization" with President Donald Trump as its "egomaniacal leader." Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said ICE’s structure is "as undemocratic and authoritarian as it gets in the US."
Multiple surveys have shown a lack of support for abolishing ICE. A July poll by Politico and Morning Consult showed only 25 percent of voters favored abolishing the agency while a majority preferred keeping it. Last month, an Associated Press survey found only a quarter of Democrats supported abolishing ICE.