WASHINGTON—Democrats’ failure to get behind a House resolution to support Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel has made the midterm election battle “immensely harder for themselves,” said Steve Cortes, a CNN political commentator and head of presidential candidate Donald Trump’s 2016 Hispanic advisory council.
H.Res.990, “supporting the officers and personnel who carry out the important mission of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” was introduced on July 11 by Rep. Clay Higgins (R–La.) and passed with a 244–35 vote on July 18.
The non-binding resolution expresses support for ICE agents and denounces the calls to abolish the agency. It also supports all federal, state, and military personnel “who bring law and order to our nation’s borders.”
A lone Republican, Justin Amash (R–Mich.), voted against the resolution, along with 34 Democrats.
A further 133 Democrats noted they were present, but didn’t vote. Eight Republicans and eight Democrats did not attend the vote.
Cortes called the actions of the 133 Democrats that voted present “incredibly cowardly.”
“At least have the guts to go on the record and say you don’t support ICE, if you don’t,” he said. “I don’t think it’s illogical or unreasonable for us to presume that the 133—because they were unwilling to join the affirmation of ICE—that they at least implicitly were telling us that they don’t support ICE, but they didn’t have the guts to actually say it.”
Cortes said that historically, the first midterms in a new presidency can be “disastrous” for the incumbent party, giving the examples of former presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama.
He said the House vote now puts to paper where the Democrats stand and it will “100 percent” impact the midterms.
“The thing is, the Democrats have a lot going for them in terms of the midterms. The anti-Trump forces are incredibly energized,” Cortes said.
But if Democrats embrace the “far-left, radical open borders agenda of people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, [New York City] Mayor de Blasio, and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.)—if they want to run on that vision—then I think that the … Trump coalition will be energized to come out and defeat them, he said.”
Trump, who has been a firm supporter of ICE and law enforcement, responded to the passage of the resolution, in a tweet on July 19.
“The Democrats have a death wish, in more ways than one‚—they actually want to abolish ICE. This should cost them heavily in the Midterms. Yesterday, the Republicans overwhelmingly passed a bill supporting ICE!” Trump wrote.
ICE was created in 2003, in the aftermath of 9/11, through a merger of the investigative and interior enforcement elements of the former U.S. Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
The agency operates under the Department of Homeland Security and has more than 20,000 agents in more than 400 offices in the United States and 46 foreign countries, according to its website.
It has a broad focus, from investigations into gangs, drugs, and cross-border crime such as child sex trafficking, to anti-terrorism investigations, as well as being responsible for the removal of immigration violators in the United States.
The House resolution details the results of ICE operations in fiscal year 2017, including the arrests of 127,000 aliens with criminal convictions or charges. The criminal aliens were responsible for more than 76,000 dangerous drug offenses, 48,000 assault offenses, 11,000 weapon offenses, 5,000 sexual assault offenses, 2,000 kidnapping offenses, and 1,800 homicide offenses.
“Abolishing ICE would mean that countless illegal aliens who could pose a threat to public safety would be allowed to roam free instead of being removed from American soil,” the resolution states.
ICE also identified or rescued 904 sexually exploited children and 518 victims of human trafficking in fiscal 2017, according to the resolution.
Cortes said that Democrats have veered into far-left, radical territory in their continual criticism of ICE and their calls for its elimination.
“And [it’s] not from just fringe figures anymore, but from sitting U.S. senators, from the mayor of our largest city,” he said. “The more we take the masks off Democratic activists and politicians, the more we see the reality is that they’re proponents of open borders, and they put the interests of illegal immigrants in front of the interests of American citizens.”
He pointed to an interview published on July 18 in which Keith Ellison, deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, said that it is unfair that corporations can seek out cheaper labor in other countries, but “people, regular people, cannot go back and forth across the border seeking out the highest wages.”
“So what it creates is an imbalance, it creates injustice,” Ellison said.
Cortes said Ellison’s view is not just a fringe idea anymore, but it’s held by only a small minority of Americans.
“Somehow, in their twisted vision, they believe so much in globalism and they resent any semblance of American nationalism that they’ve gone to an incredibly absurd, polar extreme the other way—where America essentially has no rights to determine citizenship, to enforce borders,” Cortes said.
He said the left tries to demonize ICE agents as though they are “a bunch of white thugs looking to terrorize brown people.”
“The reality couldn’t be further from that myth,” Cortes said, adding that the percentage of Hispanic agents who work for ICE is higher than for any other federal agency.
Acting ICE Director Ron Vitiello issued a statement saying he is grateful to the members of Congress who “publicly declared their support for the brave, dedicated men and women of ICE.”
“ICE plays a critical role in protecting public safety and our national security, from combating the illegal drug trade to removing public safety threats from our communities,” Vitiello said. “Our workforce continues to carry out their important mission, and we will not be deterred by threats against our agency.”