WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence on Friday offered unqualified support for the government’s front line officers in the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement efforts in the face of calls for the abolishment of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“We are with you 100 percent,” Pence said during a visit to ICE headquarters. “We will always stand proudly with our brave heroes of ICE and the Border Patrol.
“Under President Trump, we will never abolish ICE.”
Pence’s appearance along with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen comes as the Trump administration has been engulfed in controversy for separating young children from their undocumented parents as part of a “zero tolerance” border enforcement policy.
“The calls for abolishing ICE are not only outrageous, they are irresponsible,” the vice president said.
Pence said increasing public criticism against the agency was even putting officers and their families at risk, asserting that the agency was being “attacked and demeaned … at an unprecedented rate.”
“These attacks against ICE officers and their families must stop and must stop now,” he said.
He specifically cited Democratic lawmakers, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, saying their calls for shuttering the agency were “spurious” and “must stop.” He said the calls to abolish the 20,000-person agency responsible for apprehending undocumented immigrants in the interior of the U.S. have spread far beyond the “radical left.”
“The truth is that opposition of ICE has moved to the center of the Democratic Party itself, just when you thought the Democrats couldn’t move farther to the left,” he said.
Pence’s remarks drew applause from agency staffers gathered in an office studio.
Before Pence came to the podium, Ron Vitiello, ICE’s acting chief, addressed the group, saying the agency’s “good work … had come under attack.”
Referring to Nielsen, Vitiello said the secretary had been the target of personal criticism when she was heckled last month at a local restaurant.
“Thank you, Madam Secretary, for standing up for us,” Vitiello said.
After his own remarks, the vice president took no questions.
“Is separating children on the border the Christian thing to do?” one reporter called out.
Pence ignored the question as he walked among the gathering shaking hands before departing.
Contributing: Alan Gomez in Miami