Former Vice President Joe Biden brushed off mounting calls from within the Democratic Party to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Friday afternoon, noting that the agency can be reformed with proper leadership.
“We shouldn’t abolish ICE. We should reform the system. ICE is not the problem,” Biden told reporters at a campaign stop in Concord, New Hampshire. “The policies behind ICE are the problem, and that is easy enough to fix if the president knows what he or she is doing.”
Biden’s remarks come on the heels of a recently released immigration plan by his Democratic rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). The proposal is a sweeping set of policy initiatives, which in addition to abolishing the immigration enforcement agency also imposes a moratorium on all deportations, grants complete welfare access to illegal immigrants, and accept no less than 50,000 individuals in the first year who are migrating to the United States because of climate change.
The plan was reportedly crafted in partnership with various illegal immigrants who are currently residing in the country and are shielded from deportation by former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
“My father came to America as a refugee without a nickel in his pocket, to escape widespread anti-Semitism, and find a better life,” Sanders said during the release of his proposal. “As the proud son of an immigrant, I know that my father’s story is the story of so many Americans today. When I am in the White House, we will stop the hatred towards our immigrant brothers and sisters, end family separation, and locking children up in cages.”
Biden, however, has been relatively vague on his immigration stances and has yet to release a detailed immigration platform. The presidential hopeful has called for comprehensive changes to the U.S. immigration system that would increase the current level of immigrants, legalize the status of DREAMers, and provide a pathway to citizenship for the illegal immigrants living in the United States that don’t have a criminal record and are employed.
During the second Democratic National Committee (DNC) primary debate, Biden revealed that he still opposed decriminalizing border crossings, stating that those seeking to immigrate “have to wait in line.”
“The fact of the matter is, you should be able to – if you cross the border illegally, you should be able to be sent back,” Biden said at the time. “It’s a crime.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who ended her bid for the presidency in August, was one of the first 2020 Democratic contenders to call for abolishing the agency. She received widespread backlash months earlier after saying multiple times that ICE needs to be abolished, but her comments came at a time when numerous other congressmen were advocating for the abolishment of the agency as well.
House Democrats introduced a bill in early July to abolish ICE, but after House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) announced he planned to bring the proposed bill to a vote, those same Democrats called it a “political stunt,” and vowed to vote against their own proposal.