— Brett Banditelli (@banditelli) March 9, 2018
Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) caused an uproar across social media after stressing the need for–and defending the existence of–Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal administrative agency commonly referred to by its initials: ICE.
Harris was making an appearance on MSNBC‘s All In with host Chris Hayes to discuss Attorney General Jeff Sessions‘ recent speech on California’s legal status as a sanctuary state.
After a bit of back-and-forth about whether or not Sessions was making explicit overtures to nullification and slavery with his comments critical of California, Harris settled on accusing Sessions of attempting to roll back the clock while claiming the banner of forward-thinking for herself and the Golden State by proclaiming that “California represents the future.”
But another segment of that interview seemingly contradicted Harris’ invocation of the future and would-be progressive mantle-holding. Hayes bluntly asked Harris, “Should ICE exist?” To which Harris blinked before replying:
Should ICE exist? Well, certainly. When we’re talking about people who’ve committed serious and violent crimes–you know, I mean–Chris you know my background. I’m a prosecutor. I believe there need to be serious, severe and swift consequences when people commit serious and violent crimes…and certainly if they are undocumented, they should be deported if they commit those serious and violent offenses. So, yes, ICE has a purpose. ICE has a role. ICE should exist. But let’s not abuse the power.
Harris’ comments immediately drew swift and harsh rebuke from multiple pro-immigrant and left-wing voices online. Various Twitter users shared the controversial clip, garnering thousands of hate-likes and retweets in the process.
Splinter News‘ Jack Mirkinson penned a scathing take-down of the centrist Senator’s position. Under the title, “Not Good Enough, Kamala Harris,” Mirkinson wrote, in part:
What Harris’ seemingly reasonable response misses—beyond the fact that there is an entire gigantic and ugly criminal justice system already dealing with serious and violent crimes, and that we don’t need to throw in a white nationalist goon squad on top of it—is that there is no way to prevent ICE from “abusing” its power. Abuse of power is baked into its very core. It exists to cause misery and terror, and has successfully carried out that task under both Democratic and Republican presidents. Under Donald Trump, it has shown beyond all possible doubt that it is too morally bankrupt to be reformed.
ICE is a recently created federal agency which got its start under the administration of George W. Bush in 2002–as author Jake Currie has noted, the teenage survivors of the Parkland massacre are older than the agency itself. ICE’s mandate has been criticized as overly broad and many have questioned whether the federal government’s role in enforcing immigration law necessarily requires an agency like ICE.
After all, critics note, the United States did alright without ICE for over 225 years.
Far from a fringe position, the notion of shuttering the controversial administrative agency has picked up steam in recent months among Democratic Party, immigration rights and left-wing activists generally.
Author Sean McElwee has predicted on numerous occasions that the abolition of ICE will be a campaign position endorsed by various Democratic Party candidates for the 2020 presidential election.
A recent article in The Nation by McElwee gave ICE’s abolition the popular progressive magazine’s imprimatur and some Democratic Party candidates for the 2018 midterm election, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have already begun campaigning on the concept.
[image via screengrab/MSNBC; video courtesy MSNBC/Twitter/Brent Banditelli]