The groundwork for mass deportation has been laid by both parties over the years, from the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 to the Homeland Security Act of 2002. Now, a reckoning and a realignment is beginning in the Democratic party.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spent the final days of her primary campaign not in New York’s 14th district but at the southern border with Mexico in order to draw attention to the Trump administration’s policy of family separations at the border. It makes sense for a candidate who talked often about immigration in the campaign—and was not afraid to say that the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency should be completely defunded. Ocasio-Cortez was a leader on the issue, frequently criticizing incumbent Representative Joe Crowley for his vote to fund ICE and criticizing him for refusing to abolish it.
Her stunning upset election has now advanced that cause. The Democratic Party has been put on notice by the defeat of the House Democratic Caucus chairman. And Ocasio-Cortez isn’t the only candidate who wants to abolish ICE.
On June 5, Deb Haaland became the first candidate to ever win a primary while supporting defunding ICE. “As a Native American woman,” Haaland told me, she is aware that “children in my family for generations were torn from their parents because of government policies, to be forcibly assimilated into white culture. The pain and trauma of that separation lasts generations, and my heart breaks for the children facing this same fate in Trump detention camps today.”
Two other New York primary challengers, Adem Bunkeddeko and Suraj Patel, supported abolishing ICE, and all wildly overperformed expectations.
Groups like Make the Road Action, United We Dream Action, Mijente, and Detention Watch Network support abolishing ICE, and there is now an organization, Abolish ICE, to fund those front-line groups in partnership with Make the Road Action. (I am a co-founder of this effort.) Antonio Alarcón, a Dreamer, a member of Make the Road Action, and a senior adviser at Abolish ICE, said, “This agency exists for one reason: to tear our families apart in the service of a white-nationalist agenda. It’s time to abolish ICE. This is not longer just a hashtag on social media, it’s a fight that we need to take to Congress now!”