How Kirsten Gillibrand’s unserious “abolish ICE” comment spawned a farce

One of the most amusing – and #headdesk-worthy – bits of politics is when everyone loses their minds over a completely unserious suggestion. The latest example of this type of puerile behavior is the call by New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement on the grounds it’s suddenly become some sort of deportation force of stormtroopers under President Donald Trump.

The reaction was unsurprising. Vice furiously hailed Gillibrand as having the “strongest stance on the issue,” while Bloomberg wrote she was embracing the liberal rallying call (while also suggesting she was a contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee). The Daily Beast noted Gillibrand was the first U.S. Senator to call for the ICE name to be deported from government halls, and The Nation has been pushing the abolition of ICE all weekend. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren proceeded to support the idea of getting rid of ICE during a Saturday rally.

The Republican response to #AbolishICE can be described as #DefendICE. Trump tweeted Democrats want to basically get rid of all police. Jeff Giesa suggested there’d be no nation to defend should ICE disappear while Kurt Schlichter declared Democrats “are happy to allow murderous gangs in our country in order to replace American voters with foreigners.” Kellyanne Conway proclaimed on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show #AbolishICE “spans a spectrum from the ignorant to the irrational.” The Republican Party’s researchers were also quick to point out Gillibrand had evolved on the immigration issue – much like former President Barack Obama evolved on gay marriage.

In short, a total farce.

All these calls by Gillibrand are just a political ploy to get more campaign cash, and possibly secure her own political future. Ed took a look at the comments, and correctly reasoned her call was just to insulate herself from any other sort of progressive challenge in the future. After all, Gillibrand is running for re-election this year. Why not try to cement her political position by trying to keep democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or some like-minded politico, from setting her eyes on a bigger prize in 2024.

Let’s remember, Gillibrand didn’t exactly take a strong stance against ICE. She just wants to “repeal and replace” much like the GOP ran on repealing and replacing Obamacare. Fellow Democratic Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tammy Duckworth said immigration enforcement has to exist, they’re just angry at how ICE is being used. Wisconsin Congressman Mark Pocan’s vow to introduce legislation to get rid of ICE is rather short on details and seems more geared towards ginning up support among likely voters, instead of proposing an actual solution.

Even the Homeland Security Investigations, Special Agents in Charge who petitioned DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to rename ICE aren’t pushing for new policies. They just want the name to go away on the grounds there is a “perceived linkage to the politics of civil immigration.” They also noted HSI “is constantly expending resources to explain the organizational differences to state and local partners, as well as to Congressional staff, and even within our own department – DHS.”

It’s a farce, and one Shakespeare or Chaucer might take pleasure in writing. The absurdity of the entire debate isn’t about any real policy but making people ‘feel good’ about their government. It’s like the so-called anarchists who declare they want to see the government go away – but then proclaim there needs to be single-payer or laws to get rid of corporations. It’s complete nonsense, and those pushing these types of policies deserve to be laughed at – not hailed.

Let’s remember, these Democratic criticisms of ICE didn’t exactly exist during the Obama Administration when he was called “Deporter in Chief.” It’s true internal removals were up last fiscal year, but total removals are down from 2015 and 2016. Migration Policy Institute noted Obama had 3M removals from America during his tenure – way up from Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Trump has a while to reach those totals.

It doesn’t mean there aren’t valid concerns on how the government operates when it comes to immigration enforcement. Cato Institute has a new project called Checkpoint America: Monitoring The Constitution-Free Zone which looks at Custom and Border Protection checkpoints – including those 100 miles (not a typo) away from the actual border. ReasonTV looked at an American citizen from Armenia who was held for 19 days by CBP and was never charged. There are definite problems with how DHS/ICE/CBP operates.

But it won’t solve anything to give ICE a new coat of paint and a new name – like a business renaming itself but keeping the same owners, managers, and employees. It’s just shuffling chairs on the Titanic to get money and votes while hoping no one will notice.