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From #OccupyICE Encampments to the Campaign Trail, Call Grows to Abolish 'Unaccountable and Inhumane' Agency

"It is not an accident that Donald Trump can use ICE and CBP as tools of unconstitutional illegal behavior: it is part of the structural flaw of the agencies themselves."

Julia Conley

Immigrant rights advocates and others participate in a demonstration against the Trump administration's family separation policy on June 1, 2018 in New York City. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

As calls to rein in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reached the halls of Congress this week, with Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) calling to abolish the agency that's enforced the Trump administration's family separation policy, direct actions aimed at shutting down ICE's facilities are spreading across the country.

With outrage growing this month over the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy, demonstrators in Portland, Oregon congregated outside ICE's facility in their city on June 17 to hold a candlelight vigil. Many protesters have remained outside the building ever since, blocking the entrance in an effort to keep deportation trials from proceeding.

In the weeks that have followed, similar actions have cropped up at ICE's offices in several other cities across the country.

More than 30 protesters temporarily shut down ICE's operations in Detroit on Monday, with plans to stay at the agency's field office until June 30.

Over the weekend, the #OccupyICE movement came to Los Angeles, with demonstrators blocking the agency's vans from leaving its driveway.

Protesters in New York began their #OccupyICE demonstration last week, forcing all of Monday's planned immigration hearings to be postponed.

"Make no mistake, ICE is a white supremacist organization following the orders of a white supremacist administration, and the intent of these policies is to discourage all nonwhite immigration...and to preserve the power of the rapidly shrinking white majority," said Occupy ICE PDX in a statement to other activists last week. "It is not only possible to imagine a world without ICE, an organization which has only existed for the last 15 years, but necessary and our duty to make it a reality."

As Common Dreams reported on Monday, Pocan introduced legislation to abolish ICE, accusing the agency of "tearing apart families and ripping at the moral fabric of our nation."

The proposal was another sign that more Americans are refusing to tolerate the separation of families, raids by ICE agents that leave families and communities reeling, and the agency's targeting of immigrants with no criminal records and people whose green card applications are underway.

ICE was formed in 2003, ostensibly to "protect national security and strengthen public safety."

As Cynthia Nixon, who is running in New York's Democratic primary for governor, told "The View" last week, ICE is far from fulfilling its claimed mission.

"I think we need to abolish ICE; that seems really clear. ICE is relatively new, it came in after September 11," Nixon told Joy Behar. "We've been handling immigration and customs for a long time here. We don't need ICE, and they have strayed so far from the interests of the American people and the interests of humanity. We need to abolish it."

At least 19 Democratic challengers have also called for ICE to be abolished, according to New York magazine, with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez making the proposal a signature issue of her campaign in the Democratic primary in New York's 14th Congressional district.

In his campaign for Florida's 27th district, progressive Democrat Matt Haggman made the issue the focus of a campaign ad.

Zephyr Teachout, Democratic candidate for Attorney General in New York, wrote about ICE's "lawlessness" in an editorial in The Guardian.

"It is not an accident that Donald Trump can use ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as tools of unconstitutional illegal behavior: it is part of the structural flaw of the agencies themselves," wrote Teachout. "ICE undermines what we aspire to be as Americans, and is an unaccountable and inhumane political tool, treating all immigrants as national security threats...ICE and CBP are so politicized that they are not credible as law enforcement agencies, and so deeply connected with illegal behavior that they are no longer credible as self-governing agencies. Instead, they have become tools of arbitrary power and cruelty; the opposite of law."

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