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'Don't Party... Return the Children!': While Federal Agents Get White House Salute, Critics Denounce Trump's Xenophobia and Cruelty

Immigrant rights advocates noted that ICE and CBP are responsible for "carrying out Trump's brutal family separation policy" and "countless other abuses"

Abolish ICE protest

Pablo Villavicencio, an undocumented immigrant who has worked as a pizza delivery man in Brooklyn, was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Friday, June 1, the same day immigrant rights advocates gathered in New York to protest the Trump administration's cruel immigration policies. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

As President Donald Trump hosted a made-for-television pageant to celebrate federal immigration agencies on Monday afternoon, critics of the president rebuked the administration's xenophobic agenda and "zero tolerance" border policies under which hundreds of children remain forcibly separated from their parents and detained by the U.S. government.

Instead of using valuable time and resources to "salute" Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) demanded the administration immediately comply with a federal court order that had mandated the reunification of all families by July 26:

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has spearheaded several lawsuits challenging the Trump administration's immigration policies, tweeted that the White House event that honored officials from the agencies on Monday "overlooks" their "countless" abuses of immigrants, and called on Congress to hold accountable the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees ICE and CBP.

The National Immigration Law Center noted that ICE arrests have soared under Trump, and tweeted a message directed at those at risk of being targeted by the agency:


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United We Dream, the nation's largest youth-led immigrant rights group, outlined the agencies' records in a lengthy series of tweets, pointing to reports of sexual abuse; agents dumping water containers left for those crossing the border illegally; physical abuse and torture of unaccompanied children; agents shooting undocumented immigrants; inhumane and deadly detention conditions; forced separation of families; detaining an undocumented child for seeking medical care, as well as a father for driving his pregnant wife to the hospital; and the government lying about an immigrant's gang ties to try to revoke his protected status and deport him.

Rodrigo Huertas, United We Dream's digital communications manager, pointed to the cruel conditions under which the Trump administration has detained unaccompanied children and those separated from their parents—including housing them in cages, administering psychotropic drugs without parental consent, and strapping them to chairs with bags over their heads.

Huertas concluded with a call that's become increasingly popular among immigrant rights advocates and progressive politicians: to abolish ICE. Meanwhile, ahead of the ceremony on Monday, the White House released a letter in which Trump falsely claimed that the Abolish ICE movement aims to "abolish our borders entirely."

Trump's letter urged state and local leaders join the president in "publicly for the men and women of ICE and CBP" through "letters, public statements, op-eds, resolutions, and events," and called on state and local jurisdictions to coordinate with both agencies, a clear jab at sanctuary cities.

In his letter as well as his statements at the ceremony, Trump turned to his common dog whistle of MS-13. Splinter recently produced a video detailing the gang's history—including its founding in the U.S.—and debunking the president's oft-repeated inaccurate claims about the group:

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