McElwee is part of the construction, in real time and at lightning speed, of a new Democratic conversation that owes more to Noam Chomsky than to Bill Clinton, more to Twitter than to white papers, and that is providing the intellectual backbone for new establishment and ambitious existing establishment figures like Gillibrand — something that makes some of the radicals nervous.
Since McElwee first tweeted the phrase in February of last year, “Abolish ICE” has transformed into a rallying cry, an anti-Trump protest sign slogan, and an issue fomenting divisions inside the Democratic Party. What seemed an impossible policy dream is now endorsed by some members of Congress, including likely 2020 contenders. Some pro-abolish ICE Democrats say that immigration should instead be enforced as a civil issue under a new, more humanitarian banner.
“Abolish ICE” wouldn’t have the same political resonance if it weren’t for two recent events that catapulted the movement into the wider consciousness: the groundswell of attention toward disturbing stories of family separation and detainments and the upset primary victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose platform included abolishing ICE, as McElwee documented in a March article in the Nation, where he is a contributing writer.