Washington lawmakers oppose abolition of ICE, counter congressional criticism

Click here to read the letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen.

OLYMPIA – Twenty-two Washington lawmakers are declaring opposition to abolition of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), countering calls from congressional liberals for its elimination.

The legislators released a letter Monday expressing support for the agency’s mission of overseeing border crossings and enforcing federal immigration laws. The letter observes that ICE was created sixteen years ago in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, to address concerns about poorly coordinated federal efforts to police the nation’s borders.

The letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen states, “While people of good will may differ on the best way to enforce border security and on recent policy decisions regarding families intercepted while attempting to cross the border illegally, common sense dictates some entity must be tasked with enforcing federal law and protecting U.S. citizens.”

The letter observes that ICE’s responsibilities go far beyond immigration enforcement, and include efforts to combat human trafficking, international gang activity, and the entry of illegal drugs and weapons. The lawmakers note that the state could be expected to assume additional responsibilities if ICE is eliminated, and they express concern about the cost to Washington taxpayers.

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, circulated the letter for signature by the entire Legislature. “This issue has become highly politicized, but all thoughtful Americans recognize the need for secure borders and regulation of immigration,” Padden said. “I am glad so many Washington legislators today are willing to express their thoughts on a matter of political controversy.”

Over the last month, a burgeoning congressional faction has called for elimination of the agency or a substantial reduction in its powers. One member of Washington’s congressional delegation has announced she will sponsor legislation to abolish ICE. A second member said he plans to assist her in drafting the bill.

“This fast-growing effort demonstrates the intense pressure from the left to transform a law enforcement matter into a partisan political issue,” Padden said.

“We need to remember that Congress passed our immigration laws in the first place, and ICE was created with strong support from both political parties and the American public as a whole. Current law governing immigration originated long before the present administration, yet we heard no significant protest until after the last presidential election.

“Demagoguery for the sake of short-term political advantage puts our nation at risk. If some elected officials have a problem with our laws, rather than gutting or dismantling the agency charged with enforcement, they ought to behave in a forthright way and attempt to change the laws themselves. My gut tells me they would find this extremely difficult, as our laws are founded on common sense.”