Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has frequently criticized Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is suggesting that the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE, should be eliminated.
Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives have previously called for the abolition of ICE, but her suggestion to dissolve the umbrella department that oversees numerous agencies — including the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Transportation Security Administration — would significantly alter the federal structure overseeing immigration enforcement, anti-terrorism and disaster management that was created after the September 11 attacks.
Ocasio-Cortez first made the suggestion earlier this week in an interview with The New Yorker Radio Hour’s David Remnick during a discussion about whether it was possible to reform ICE rather than abolishing it, which Ocasio-Cortez said was impossible because the agency lacks adequate oversight.
“Would you get rid of Homeland Security too?” Remnick asked.
“I think so, I think so. I think we need to undo a lot of the egregious, a lot of the egregious mistakes that the Bush administration did. I feel like we are at a very, it’s a very qualified and supported position, at least in terms of evidence, and in terms of being able to make the argument, that we never should’ve created DHS in the early 2000s,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
Ocasio-Cortez later doubled down on Twitter to further explain her position.
“Discussing reorganization shouldn’t be out of the question,” she asserted Wednesday night.
She added that “132 members – incl GOP & Independents – voted against creating the Dept of Homeland Security.”
“Don’t let people rewrite history as if DHS/ICE always existed, or is a no-brainer,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “It’s a young agency, ill-conceived after 9/11 & sacrificed our civil liberties – like the Patriot Act.”
Intended to better organize US counterterrorism efforts and disaster response, DHS was created as a Cabinet-level department in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, which exposed security lapses and intelligence failures, and led to calls for sweeping changes to the nation’s defense, intelligence and law enforcement sectors. Many existing agencies, including the US Secret Service, were moved under the new department.
As part of the reorganization, ICE’s forebearer, Immigration and Naturalization Service, was dismantled and its enforcement responsibilities were shifted to ICE, then a new agency.
Ocasio-Cortez has not publicly suggested what would happen to the agencies under DHS were it to be reorganized. CNN has reached out to her office for additional comment.
Although there were some critics who believed the creation of DHS would create an additional layer of bureaucracy in the federal government, it easily passed both chambers of Congress before President George W. Bush signed it into law in late 2002.
During the Trump administration — and particularly after revelations of the separation of families at the southern border and reports of squalid conditions at detention facilities — many progressives have called to abolish ICE, though there’s been no indication that Senate Republicans or House Democratic leadership is considering taking action to do so.