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Ayanna Pressley endorses defunding ICE

Ayanna Pressley. GLOBE PHOTO/FILE

Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley is endorsing a small but growing movement to defund US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, saying the agency poses an “existential threat” to immigrant communities.

She made the announcement in a statement released by her campaign as US Representative Michael E. Capuano, her rival in the Seventh Congressional District, returned from Texas, where he was part of a congressional delegation that toured immigrant detention centers, including one where mothers were being held after they were separated from their children under President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy for illegal border crossings.

Both Pressley and Capuano are battling for the support of Democratic primary voters outraged by Trump’s hard-line immigration policies and the separation of migrant children from their families.


“ICE was created less than 20 years ago, and it is clear now that the agency is irrevocably broken,” Pressley said in a statement. “If elected I will work with federal leaders to rehouse the non-immigration enforcement functions of ICE — including human trafficking and money laundering investigations — elsewhere in the US Department of Homeland Security, while immediately eliminating funding for enforcement and removal functions.”

In calling for the elimination of ICE funding, Pressley is embracing a position that has gained increasing currency among some liberal activists and Democratic candidates this year.

The actress Cynthia Nixon, who is running in the Democratic primary against Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic primary challenger battling Representative Joe Crowley for his New York City congressional seat, and US Representative Earl Blumenauer, Democrat of Oregon, are among those who have called for the abolition of ICE.

Still, the idea is still not widely accepted, even among many harsh critics of ICE. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, for instance, has declined to endorse the idea.

Capuano wrote in his newsletter that he went to Texas over the weekend to see firsthand the “immoral and cruel Trump administration practice of ripping children away from their families.” In Texas, he said, he asked pointed questions about what the administration is doing to try to reunite families.


“What I saw in Texas broke my heart,” Capuano wrote on Twitter. “There is no sign that the Trump administration has a credible plan for reuniting families. This must be a priority. @realDonaldTrump — you created this problem and you must fix it.”

Pressley said she plans to tour an ICE detention center in Boston on Wednesday, as part of her plan to focus on immigration policy this week. Her schedule also includes an immigration round-table discussion with advocates in Everett on Tuesday and the roll-out of her campaign’s full immigration policy later this week.

“Our immigration system is fundamentally broken and ICE’s role in supporting the existing system — including separating families seeking refuge in the United States and conducting indiscriminate deportation raids in our communities — is creating an atmosphere of toxic fear and mistrust in immigrant communities,” Pressley said.