Ocasio-Cortez Says ‘Getting Rid’ of DHS Is Not as ‘Radical’ as Its Creation

By Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan is a reporter based in New York covering the Justice Department, courts, and First Amendment.
July 20, 2019 Updated: July 20, 2019

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said eliminating the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is not as “radical” as former President George W. Bush’s implementation of the department after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Ocasio-Cortez made the comments during a town hall event on immigration in New York on July 20. The comments were first highlighted in a video by the Republican National Committee.

“That criminalization frame has justified abuse [sic] of human beings. That’s one big reason why we have to take things from a criminalized frame to a civil frame,” she said. “And when people say ‘Oh, you wanna to talk about dismantling DHS or abolishing ICE or all of these things. These are such radical agendas.’ First of all, I think that reorganizing and getting rid of DHS is not as radical as George Bush’s creation, implementation of DHS in the first place.”

She then went on to say that the DHS holds a consolidation of power because it is made up of various agencies such as Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), United States Coast Guard (USCG), and United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

“It doesn’t make any sense. It’s a power play and it has created the crisis that we have today,” the freshman congresswoman claimed. “So it’s not that radical to say that maybe George Bush wasn’t right.”

The DHS was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as “a comprehensive national strategy to safeguard the country against terrorism and respond to any future attacks,” according to the department’s website.

Bringing the end of DHS will also end the operation of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), USCG, CBP, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), FEMA, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), United States Secret Service (USSS), Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Management Directorate, Science and Technology Directorate, Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office, the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, and the Office of Operations Coordination.

This is not the first time the freshman congresswoman had called for the department’s elimination. She made similar remarks during an appearance earlier this month on The New Yorker Radio Hour with David Remnick.

“And so, I think what it means is, for example, ICE is not under DOJ It’s under the Department of Homeland Security,” Ocasio-Cortez said during the interview.

“Would you get rid of Homeland Security, too?” Remnick asked.

“I think so. I think so,” the freshman congresswoman replied. “I think we need to undo a lot of the egregious mistakes that the Bush Administration did.”

“I feel like it is 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 have created DHS in the early 2000s,” she added.

After she made the remarks, Ocasio-Cortez was criticized by other lawmakers and prominent figures for her comments.

“Ridiculous comments by AOC on DHSgov,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) wrote on Twitter. “The Dept. of Homeland Security has been invaluable to our country’s safety since it was created after the 9/11 attacks. ICE & CBP agents risk their lives to keep us safe while Dems sit in their comfy offices & attack them. It’s shameful.”

“Someone should inform AOC the Dept. of Homeland Security (formed after 9/11) is more than just border security—it operates the Coast Guard, FEMA, TSA, & many crucial programs that combat terrorism, too,” GOP Co-Chair Tommy Hicks wrote on Twitter.

Ocasio-Cortez is an outspoken critic of the Trump administration’s alleged treatment of illegal immigrants, where she previously compared border detention facilities to “concentration camps” and made a series of accusations about the condition of the treatment of illegal immigrants at a facility in Texas. The most disturbing of all of her claims was that the detainees were forced to drink out of a toilet bowl.

Several past and current border patrol agents and high profile figures have come out to push back on the congresswoman’s claims, criticizing her for misrepresenting the conditions in detention facilities at the southern border.

Janita Kan
Janita Kan is a reporter based in New York covering the Justice Department, courts, and First Amendment.