GOP legislators wrapped the unpopular “Abolish ICE!” campaign around House Democrats on Wednesday, by forcing a floor vote where 167 Democrats abstained or voted against a resolution praising the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Democratic leaders protested and denounced the resolution, which was passed by 226 GOP votes. “This is the equivalent of fiddling while Rome is burning … It is a meaningless stunt,” said Democratic Rep. Ralph Nadler. “We have more important things to do.”
Democrats are under growing pressure from their progressive base to block ICE’s popular immigration reforms. But that is electoral poison, so Democratic leaders have been trying to shift attention back to higher priorities issues such as healthcare.
Only 18 Democrats voted for the GOP’s pro-enforcement resolution, while 34 Democrats voted against the resolution and 133 abstained by voting “present” in the hope of minimizing the blowback from ordinary voters or the progressive base.
The vote was an easy option for the GOP leaders, partly because it focuses voters’ attention on illegal immigration and away from the much bigger inflow of legal immigrants. Legal immigration is far more important for Americans worried about their jobs, salaries, and neighborhoods, but the GOP’s leaders receive much funding from business groups which gain from the annual inflow of 1 million legal workers, consumers, and renters.
GOP leaders made the most of their political opportunity:
“What does the resolution do? It simply says we stand behind our ICE agents, those brave men and women who are keeping America safe,” said Lousiana Rep. Steve Scalise, the GOP’s whip. “Are we for open borders? Absolutely not!” he said. “Any other vote [than yes] is a vote for open borders.”
The resolution, by Lousiana Rep. Clay Higgins, listed the successes of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2017 and declared:
That the House of Representatives—
(1) expresses its continued support for all United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers and personnel who carry out the important mission of ICE;
(2) denounces calls for the complete abolishment of ICE; and
(3) supports the efforts of all Federal agencies, State law enforcement, and military personnel who bring law and order to our Nation’s borders.
The justification for the resolution was included in the preamble:
Whereas the national security interests of the United States are dependent on the brave men and women who enforce our Nation’s immigration laws;
Whereas abolishing the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would mean open borders because it would eliminate the agency responsible for removing people who enter or remain in our country illegally;
Whereas calls to abolish ICE are an insult to these heroic law enforcement officers who make sacrifices every day to secure our borders, enforce our laws, and protect our safety and security;
Whereas abolishing ICE would allow dangerous criminal aliens, including violent and ruthless members of the MS–13 gang, to remain in American communities;
Whereas during fiscal year 2017, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) arrested more than 127,000 aliens with criminal convictions or charges;
Whereas criminal aliens arrested by ICE ERO in fiscal year 2017 were responsible for more than—
(1) 76,000 dangerous drug offenses; (2) 48,000 assault offenses; (3) 11,000 weapon offenses; (4) 5,000 sexual assault offenses; (5) 2,000 kidnapping offenses; and (6) 1,800 homicide offenses;
Whereas ICE Homeland Security Investigations made 4,818 gang-related arrests in fiscal year 2017;
Whereas abolishing ICE would mean that countless illegal aliens who could pose a threat to public safety would be allowed to roam free instead of being removed from American soil;
Whereas abolishing ICE would mean more dangerous illegal drugs flowing into our communities, causing more Americans to needlessly suffer;
Whereas ICE plays a critical role in combatting the drug crisis facing our Nation;
Whereas ICE seized more than 980,000 pounds of narcotics in fiscal year 2017, including thousands of pounds of the deadly drugs fueling the opioid crisis;
Whereas ICE seized 2,370 pounds of fentanyl and 6,967 pounds of heroin in fiscal year 2017;
Whereas ICE logged nearly 630,000 investigative hours directed toward fentanyl in fiscal year 2017;
Whereas abolishing ICE would leave these drugs in our communities to cause more devastation;
Whereas abolishing ICE would mean eliminating the agency that deports aliens that pose a terrorist threat to the United States;
Whereas ICE was created in 2003 to better protect national security and public safety after 9/11 terrorists exploited immigration rules to gain entry into the United States;
Whereas the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks found that many of the 9/11 hijackers committed visa violations;
Whereas ICE identifies dangerous individuals before they enter our country and locates them as they violate our immigration laws; and
Whereas abolishing ICE would enable the hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals who illegally overstay their visa each year to remain in the United States indefinitely: