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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Top Democrats tell Axios they're worried that a sudden wave of ambitious party members calling for the abolition of ICE — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is newly controversial because of the detained kids — will make the party look weak on security, a key issue for many swing voters.

Between the lines: These Dems fear the phrase makes them an easy target for conservatives who accuse Democrats of wanting "open borders."

  • The issue is getting traction after this week's surprise upset by 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who made "Abolish ICE" a central tenet of her campaign against Rep. Joe Crowley, who had been the king of Queens.
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) became the first sitting senator to say the U.S. should "get rid of" ICE: "start over. Build something that actually works."
  • New York Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted yesterday: "ICE is broken, it’s divisive and it should be abolished."
  • A few other more progressive Democratic candidates have adopted the anti-ICE messaging, including Cynthia Nixon, running for New York governor, and Matt Haggman, a running for Florida's 27th congressional district.

Be smart: "Abolish ICE" is the perfect antithesis to Trump's "Build a wall": It represents an entire immigration ideology in one simple phrase that resonates with their base.

  • The phrase has started spiking on Google Trends, mostly in D.C., New York, and along the West Coast.
  • But a Trump tweet this morning showed how easy the issue will be to demagogue: "To the great and brave men and women of ICE, do not worry or lose your spirit. You are doing a fantastic job of keeping us safe by eradicating the worst criminal elements. So brave! The radical left Dems want you out. Next it will be all police. Zero chance, It will never happen!"

Celinda Lake, longtime Democratic pollster, told Axios: "I worry that abolishing ICE tips the issues from humane treatment to security. The Republicans are already trying to move the issue in that direction."

  • Lake added: "Voters believe we need some enforcement of border security — not just for immigration, but for security. I wish we were pushing this to: 'We need comprehensive immigration reform.'"

Republicans are rejoicing at the notion of a new litmus test for Democrats, especially ones who have presidential ambitions in 2020.

  • Alex Castellanos, longtime adviser to top Republicans, said Dems are making the mistake his own party made after losing to Barack Obama: "[W]e became so weak, marginalizing ourselves to such an extreme, that an outsider business guy who had never run for office before, extinguished us all."
  • "That’s the danger for the Dems now. They are marginalizing themselves as they race against each other to win the gold medal for anti-Trump extremism. If they are not careful, some Silicon Valley billionaire, outsider — probably a woman — could clean all their clocks and steal their party right out from under them."

Where the debate is going ... A well-known Democratic strategist told Axios: "'Abolish' alone could be a political disaster, akin to Trump’s gutting the [Affordable Care Act] is for Republicans. … It suggests that Dem concern for undocumented immigrants goes beyond compassion andinto irresponsibility."

  • The strategist's prescription: "If Democrats propose to repeal and replace, that could work. ... Replace it with an interior enforcement agency that goes back to cracking down on real criminals and respects civil liberties. That could be a substantive and political winner."

Go deeper: The left's push to #AbolishICE

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Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

British national named in Colleyville synagogue standoff

A law enforcement vehicle sits near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on Jan. 16. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

British national Malik Faisal Akram took four people hostage at a Texas synagogue outside Fort Worth on Saturday, the FBI said in a statement.

State of play: Authorities had initially declined to release the name of the 44-year-old suspect or identify the hostages, all adults, though police chief Michael Miller confirmed that one of those held was Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who leads the congregation.

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Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron — WHO recommends 2 new treatments — What "mild" really means when it comes to Omicron — Deaths are climbing as cases skyrocket.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas— Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements— Supreme Court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for large employers.
  3. Politics: Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health" — Focus group says Biden weak on COVID response, strong on democracy
  4. Economy: America's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic— — CDC COVID guidance for cruise ships to be optional starting Saturday — The cost of testing.
  5. States: West Virginia governor feeling "extremely unwell" after positive test — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers — America struggles to keep schools open
  6. World: Beijing reports first local Omicron case weeks before Winter Olympics — Teachers in France stage mass walkout over COVID protocols.
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Novak Djokovic loses Australian visa appeal

Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays a forehand during a practice session ahead of the 2022 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 14, 2022. Photo: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

Tennis star Novak Djokovic left Australia on Sunday evening, facing a three-year visa ban after an appeals court in the country revoked his visa.

Driving the news: Djokovic will not be able to defend his Australian Open title when the tournament starts in Melbourne. The World No. 1 is looking to break a three-way tie with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for most Grand Slam men's singles titles.