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The Call To Abolish ICE


We're going to start the program today with the question that countries are facing around the world, and that is how to address the flow of human beings who for whatever reason want to leave their homes for somewhere else. In the European Union, the answer to that question could determine the future of Angela Merkel's government. In a few minutes, we'll go to Germany, where European leaders have been debating again how open their borders should be. Here in the U.S., that debate continues also with a particular focus at the moment on the procedures and the people that migrants confront when they cross the southern border.

Now, in the wake of the outrage about families being separated, some Democrats are now calling to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE. We called one of the people making that argument. She is Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. She's a Democrat. She represents Washington state's 7th District, and she's with us now.

Congresswoman, thank you so much for speaking to us.

PRAMILA JAYAPAL: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: So I understand that you're planning to introduce legislation with another representative, Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, that would abolish ICE. What exactly are you proposing?

JAYAPAL: Well, the legislation as we're drafting it now would actually set up a commission that would have a period of time to work on alternatives to really how we redesign the functions of ICE and where we put them. And then ICE would be abolished at the end of that time with the best alternative being chosen. And, you know, what I would say about this, Michel, is that there was enforcement of immigration laws before ICE, and there will be after ICE. I mean, ICE was a creation shortly after 9/11, and I will just say it has become a rogue agency with no accountability, no transparency, wasting taxpayer dollars and a very misdirected focus.

MARTIN: So let's now go to the politics. President Trump responded to these calls this morning on Fox. Here it is.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You know, ICE - these are the guys that go in and take MS-13, and they take them out because they're much tougher than MS-13 - like, by a factor of 10. And these are the ones - you get rid of ICE, you're going to have a country that you're going to be afraid to walk out of your house.

MARTIN: So a couple of questions about this. I mean, first of all, this seems to give the president an opening to paint the Democrats as soft on law enforcement, soft on national security. President Trump earlier today tweeted, quote, "the liberal left, also known as the Democrats, want to get rid of ICE, who do a fantastic job, and want open borders. Crime would be rampant and uncontrollable. Make America great again" - all caps and exclamation mark. So...

JAYAPAL: (Laughter).

MARTIN: You concerned about that?

JAYAPAL: Well, yes. But I'm concerned about much more with Trump, and it's not just this - that he has been consistently trying to paint immigrants as being the perpetrators of crime, the perpetrators of unemployment. And I think he's, frankly, defining the conversation from the beginning in a way that doesn't benefit the American people, doesn't benefit the taxpayers and actually puts our national security at risk.

MARTIN: Well, you spoke of how this has been framed - I mean, the president does have a very large megaphone to frame issues. The other question I have is, are you concerned that focusing the debate on this idea of abolishing ICE takes attention away from the other aspects of the administration's immigration policy that could be addressed immediately to that end?

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus has reportedly distributed to its members talking points about calls to abolish ICE. They say, quote, "abolishing ICE without changing President Trump's disastrous immigration policy will not solve the problem." And they also say in these draft talking points that ICE needs greater oversight and accountability so we can protect the homeland and better manage our broken immigration system. How do you respond to that?

JAYAPAL: No, I totally agree with that. You know, abolish ICE was a hashtag that came about, but I think what we're really talking about is redesigning and refocusing and restructuring the current practices of ICE and really having accountability around what they're doing. Donald Trump, you know, will use it in the way he's going to use it, but in the end analysis, I would just say this. The American people have to start to make choices about who they want to believe and how they want to see the history of this country and the future of this country.

MARTIN: That was Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. She represents Washington state's 7th District, and she was on the line with us now.

Congresswoman, thank you so much for talking with us.

JAYAPAL: Thank you, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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