Ayanna Pressley: ‘Abuses of ICE’ Resemble ‘Auction Block During Slavery’

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 26: House Oversight and Government Reform Committee member Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) attends a hearing on drug pricing in the Rayburn House Office building on Capitol Hill July 26, 2019 in Washington, DC. As a member of a group of four freshman Democratic women of color, …
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Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) detention of migrants resembles “the auction block during slavery,” said Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), in an interview last Thursday on Pod Save America with Jon Lovett, a former speechwriter for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Pressley described border security measures as motivated by “cruelty,” echoing characterizations used by Democrat presidential candidates Joe Biden, Sen. Cory Booker (NJ), Sen. Kamala Harris (CA), and assorted Senate Democrats:

I didn’t buy for a second that the humanitarian crisis at the border had anything to do with a deficit of funding. When I went to the border to bear witness to this humanitarian crisis, we saw plenty of toothbrushes and toothpaste and the like, so again, the cruelty is the point. It’s simply about how you choose to dedicate and allocate those funds, and within days of that bill passing, that package passing, this so-called humanitarian aid bill I think something like three new ICE facilities were opened, and then  they were putting into play ICE raids throughout the country, and that is why throughout my campaign I called for the defunding and abolishing of ICE.

… I am not cavalier about the abolishing of any agency. There are plenty of agencies that I think are in dire need of reform, and I do that work with my team every day to hold them accountable, but an agency that is using what throughout history has been proven as one of the most effective tools of oppression, which is to separate families. We’re all shocked by what we see, but we’ve been here before on reservations with indigenous and native people, at the auction block during slavery. 

“Now we are deporting children with terminal illnesses,” Pressley alleged, a false claim pushed by Biden and affiliated news media outlets, adding, “We will lift up these stories in the hopes that people will have an epiphany and some level of enlightenment and humanity, and if they don’t, we will bring the fire. That’s it.”

Democrats should leverage “ethnic and specialty media” in their 2020 presidential election campaign, advised Pressley, reflecting on her own 2016 campaign in which she ousted former Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA), who had not faced a primary challenger in 20 years:

We decided to invest in ethnic and specialty media, and the Latino community in [Massachusetts’s 7th District] is about seven percent, so you know, I had consultants at the table that said, ‘Hey, we’ll walk away. This is going to be the death knell of your campaign. You’re going to go on Telemundo and Univision in a primary?’, and that’s what we did and we grew the Latino vote by 71 percent. We grew the student vote by 400 percent. Two hundred and fifty incarcerated men behind the wall of MCI-Norfolk — who I’ll be going back to visit in a couple of days — held a debate-watching party, endorsed our campaign, and organized a minimum of three family members on the outside to go to the polls. … We’ve got to engage in the politics of transformation and not transaction.

“Activists and agitators” are needed, Pressley claimed, to repair our democracy. “I want to be in coalition beating this administration and ultimately evicting the occupant of this White House,” she said.

“[It] is all about movement building, organizing, and mobilizing,” she said. “I think these times also demand unprecedented activism. … When our democracy is working again on behalf of the American people, and that happens from the pressure on the outside that activists and agitators continue to exert, we will have established a new floor on these issues.”

“I’ve always maintained that people closest to the pain should be closest to the power, driving and informing the policymaking,” added Pressley, including herself among those she framed as “closest to pain.”

Pressley described “the Squad” — composed of herself and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) — as “threatening” to President Donald Trump, who she exclusively referred to as “the occupant of this White House.”

Follow Robert Kraychik on Twitter @rkraychik.

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