At its first meeting since the midterms, members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus seemed to pump the brakes on efforts focused on abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, an idea heavily pushed by progressive Democrats leading up to last week’s elections.
On Monday, CPC leaders fielded questions about whether they planned to continue pushing for legislation to put an end to ICE, CBS News reported. Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin told reporters the idea was certainly still on the table, but that the caucus’ main focus would be shifted to other issues.
“We’re absolutely still going to be pressing that,” Pocan, the caucus co-chair, said during a press conference. “However, I think our main goal of getting out of the gate is going to be the issues that we ran on across all the districts — around health care, around good-paying jobs, around dealing with the culture of corruption.”
The “abolish ICE” rallying cry was pushed by left-wing activists earlier this year after President Donald Trump‘s zero-tolerance immigration policies left thousands of migrant children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“I still think many of us still have issues of immigration reform as a very, very high priority,” the congressman added.
Pocan is among several prominent progressive congressional members who have called for the erasure of ICE, including new Massachusetts representative-elects Ayanna Pressley (7th District) and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, the news site reported. In July, Pocan released a statement making his case as to why the agency should be scrapped and later introduced legislation aimed at doing just that.
“Abolishing ICE and cracking down on the president’s decision to target and round up individuals and families with no criminal record is a strong step forward in developing a more humane immigration system, one that treats every person with dignity and respect,” he wrote. “The U.S. must not abandon its longstanding history as a nation welcoming of immigrants — one that has been a beacon of hope to people around the world — just to fulfill one man’s misguided efforts to appease his base.”
Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, one of the legislators who helped introduce the bill, took issue with all the focus on the abolish ICE rallying cry, however, and urged reporters to actually read the legislation. Jaypal explained that the bill is primarily aimed at reforming the immigration policy, not just doing away with ICE.
“I would really love it if all of you would read the bill and if you would report on what was in the bill and how we propose building immigration that is humane and where enforcement is transparent, saves taxpayers dollars, and is effective,” she said.
Jayapal slammed ICE as unaccountable, inhumane and an agency lacking transparency. Still, she told CBS News that doesn’t mean it needs to be dismantled completely.
“I think that this agency as it exists is not doing a good job for us,” said Jayapal. “That does not mean we’re getting rid of enforcement overall, and I just think there’s a real distinction between abolishing an agency and abolishing the function. And it would be great for people to just think about that.”
Over the summer, progressive Democrats agreed to vote down their abolish ICE legislation after House Republicans tried to force a vote on it in order to expose Democrats to political flak on the issue ahead of the midterm elections. The bill has yet to be considered on the House floor.