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Even Obama’s Homeland Security Chief Says Abolishing ICE Would ‘Compromise Public Safety’

Jeh Johnson, one of former President Barack Obama’s Homeland Security secretaries, admonished Democratic calls to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

In his op-ed for The Washington Post on Friday, Johnson said that while “abolish ICE” may make for a good political rallying cry, it isn’t “a serious policy proposal.”

“It’s about as serious as the claim that Mexico’s ‘gonna pay for the wall,’” he said in a jab at President Donald Trump’s proposal on the campaign trail.

“The outright abolition of ICE would compromise public safety,” Johnson added before arguing that such calls served to “sow even greater division in the American public and in its political leadership.”

The current debate over ICE, Johnson said, resembled what people hated most about politics:

This is one of the things Americans hate about Washington — that politics has become the end, not the means. Most Americans — whether in Laredo, Tex., or Queens, N.Y. — do not embrace the emotional and absolutist views of immigration on the extreme right or on the extreme left. […]

None of these interests is being served in Washington right now. It’s just a screaming match. The American public must demand more of its leaders and those who seek that honor.

The former Homeland Security chief told disgruntled Americans to demand changes to ICE’s policies or its leaders rather than do away with the agency as a whole.

Johnson’s op-ed came on the same day that Vice President Mike Pence vehemently defended ICE agents against attacks from Democrats like Cynthia Nixon, the former “Sex and the City” co-star who’s running for governor in New York:

Pence argued that abolishing ICE would threaten public safety and translate into more “violent crime.”

He condemned growing threats, which he said came at an “unprecedented rate” amid the controversy surrounding family separations at the border.

Although Johnson didn’t want to abolish ICE, he thought high-profile cases involving family separations hurt the agency’s public image.

“I constantly reminded ICE leadership that controversial, high-profile cases of fathers torn from their families and students pulled from their schools for deportation would turn ICE into a pariah in the very communities where its agents must work,” he said.

Johnson, like Pence, also touted ICE’s accomplishments across multiple areas in law enforcement, including drug trafficking, child pornography, and human trafficking.

He recalled how sanctuary jurisdictions started cooperating with his administration and how ICE increased the percentage of deportations for criminals.

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