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People hold a demonstration outside of an ICE detention center in New York City. Photo: Kena Betancur/VIEWpress/Corbis via Getty Images

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old who defeated top Democrat Rep. Joe Crowley in Tuesday's New York primary for the 14th district, has run on an issue that is picking up traction: The call to abolish ICE.

Why it matters: Expect to see a lot more of this in Democrats' platforms as we near the midterms, and 2020. Rep. Mark Pocan, who plans to introduce legislation to abolish ICE, told Axios that "as long as the president is abusing what the agency is intended to do, there's going to be a growing opposition."

Be Smart

A senior Democratic aide tells Axios that #AbolishICE conveys an inaccurate end-goal and gives the impression that Democrats want open borders. The aide said that lawmakers recognize other critical functions the organization carries out, and that no current member of Congress who has called for the abolishment of ICE "means it in the literal meaning of that phrase."

"In a hypothetical world where there was a Democratic congress and a Democratic president, people would rename ICE and reorganize it. ... There are very few policy positions that can be adequately explained by a hashtag. Public policy just isn't that simple."
— A senior Democratic aide, to Axios

The aide said of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who said on Friday that ICE should be abolished: "Bill de Blasio certainly knows better."

A Democratic staffer with knowledge of conversation in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which has been leading the immigration fight, told Axios that members "want smart, targeted enforcement; we're for secure borders...and having an ICE agency that is transparent, that acts humane and does their job...those are not mutually exclusive."

The state of play
  • ICE has drawn heavy criticism as the Trump administration's immigration policies came under fire in recent weeks, leading to protests at ICE detention centers and offices.
  • President Trump has chimed in, criticizing "Extremist Democrat politicians" for calling for "the complete elimination of ICE."
  • 19 agents that head ICE's Homeland Security Investigation's Unit even said in a letter to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen that they want out from under the umbrella of the organization, as ICE's reputation is making it difficult for them to investigate human trafficking, narcotics smuggling, and national security threats, the Texas Observer first reported.
What they're saying

Leadership

  • Minority House leader Nancy Pelosi's chief of staff Drew Hammill told Axios that Pelosi believes ICE can't "be allowed to continue without an immediate and fundamental overhaul.  No one can watch ICE play such a central role in the heartbreak and horror of family separation without reasonably concluding that a drastic overhaul is desperately needed, and soon.”
  • House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer said in a statement to Axios: "Instead of abolishing ICE, we need to focus on winning back the House so that Congress can conduct greater oversight on the practices and effectiveness of ICE...ICE has important and needed functions to strengthen national security, keep America safe, and regulate international commerce, but under President Trump, ICE is pursuing harmful policies that do not reflect our values...These policies are unacceptable and must end.”

Candidates:

  • Cynthia Nixon, running for governor of New York: "ICE is a terrorist organization, and its egomaniacal leader is Donald Trump."
  • Matt Haggman, a progressive Democrat running for Florida's 27th district: "I'll fight to shut ICE down. it's time for a new day."

Lawmakers:

  • Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) said: “The heartless actions of this abused agency do not represent the values of our nation and the U.S. must develop a more humane immigration system, one that treats every person with dignity and respect.”
  • Rep. Early Blumenauer (D-OR) wrote in a Medium post: "We should abolish ICE and start over, focusing on our priorities to protect our families and our borders in a humane and thoughtful fashion."
  • Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) said, per Splinter: "ICE has turned into something that is not about enforcing immigration laws....The time has come to, as I've said, re-evaluate what we have in place, to get rid of ICE."
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders said, when asked about the issue: "I think that what we need is to create policies which deal with immigration in a rational way."
  • Sen. Kamala Harris, who is a 2020 hopeful for some Democrats, said originally that ICE "has a purpose...ICE should exist." She later said that "we've got to critically reexamine ICE and its role...And we need to probably think about starting from scratch."

The bottom line: This narrative could, and will likely, become a lot more complicated fast.

Go deeper

Cuomo asks New York AG and chief judge to choose "independent" investigator into sexual harassment claims

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at a press conference on Feb. 24. Photo: Seth Wenig/pool/AFP via Getty Images

A special counselor to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a statement on Sunday asking the state's attorney general and chief judge to jointly pick an "independent and qualified lawyer in private practice without political affiliation" to investigate claims of sexual harassment against the governor.

The state of play: The statement is an about-face from Cuomo, who had previously selected a former judge close to a top aide to lead the investigation, the New York Times reported, a move that was widely criticized.

Republican Sen. Sasse slams Nebraska GOP for "weird worship" of Trump after state party rebuke

Sen. Ben Sasse, (R-Neb.) Photo: Andrew Harnik - Pool/Getty Images

The Nebraska Republican Party on Saturday formally "rebuked" Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) for his vote to impeach former President Trump earlier this year, though it stopped short of a formal censure, CNN reports.

Why it matters: Sasse is the latest among a slate of Republicans who have faced some sort of punishment from their state party apparatus after voting to impeach the former president. The senator responded statement Saturday, per the Omaha World-Herald, saying "most Nebraskans don't think politics should be about the weird worship of one dude."

Cuomo barraged by fellow Dems after second harassment accusation

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced a barrage of criticism from fellow Democrats after The New York Times reported that the second former aide in four days had accused him of sexual harassment.

Why it matters: Cuomo had faced a revolt from legislators for his handling of nursing-home deaths from COVID. Now, the scandal is acutely personal, with obviously grave political risk.