Pocan to introduce bill to abolish ICE Thursday; Baldwin opposes shuttering agency

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan speaks outside the Madison City-County building during a National Day of Action rally on gun violence attended by community leaders and local activists on June 29, 2016 in Madison, WI. PHOTO BY SAIYNA BASHIR

Dem U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan says he plans to officially introduce his legislation to abolish ICE on Thursday, as he defended the plan and knocked President Trump’s border policies.

Meanwhile, fellow Wisconsin Dem U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin Monday came out against shutting down the agency in charge of enforcing immigration law within the country, after her Republican challengers in recent days have called on her to take a position on the issue.

“We should not abolish ICE, but we need to make sure they’re focusing on their highest priority – targeting violent criminals and drug traffickers, not families and refugees,” the Madison Dem said in a statement. “This is yet another example of why we need comprehensive immigration reform to fix our broken system.”

Pocan told reporters at his Madison office the legislation would set a specific date for ICE to be eliminated, as well as create a special commission to reassign the essential duties of the organization to other agencies and get rid of functions that “are being abused.”

The Town of Vermont Dem emphasized the bill is not about creating open borders, adding that ICE is supposed to “protect the interior” and not the border. He also criticized the Trump administration’s practice of using ICE to go after people for incidents such as parking tickets. He said takes the attention away from serious crimes and puts the country more at risk.

Pocan dismissed the debate about whether to reform or abolish the organization as “semantic,” saying there’s an understanding that “we have to do something completely different because ICE, as it currently functions, is broken thanks to the president.”

“It’s the directives of the president that are the problem,” he said. “All they are doing is ginning up numbers so the president can justify the crisis he has created at the border that doesn’t exist.”

Baldwin’s potential GOP rivals still knocked her over Pocan’s proposal.

Jess Ward, the campaign manager for state Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, said Baldwin has “no problem” accepting donations from senators who want to abolish ICE such as Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, and Bernie Sanders, of Vermont. Sanders will be in Wisconsin this weekend for an Eau Claire rally with Baldwin.

“Let’s be clear: if this wasn’t an election year, everyone knows where Senator Baldwin would stand on eliminating border enforcement,” Ward said.

Ronica Cleary, spokeswoman for business consultant Kevin Nicholson, charged Baldwin has publicly supported “open border policies.”

“ICE officers should be lauded and praised for their brave efforts to keep our borders safe, not derided by extremist politicians like Pocan and Baldwin,” she said.

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