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Progressive Freshman Lawmakers to Vote No on Spending Bill That Would Fund ICE

Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib will vote against a bipartisan bill because it increases funding to the Department of Homeland Security.

by Marie Solis
Feb 15 2019, 4:06pm

A bloc of progressive freshman lawmakers is planning to vote no on a bipartisan spending bill to prevent another government shutdown on Friday because it would increase funding to the Department of Homeland Security.

Democratic House Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib announced their decision in a joint press release on Thursday, citing the department's family separation practices as evidence as to why DHS doesn't "deserve" the bump in funding it would gain from the proposed spending bill.

"The Department of Homeland Security has separated thousands of children from their parents, denied asylum to those fleeing danger, and used taxpayers dollars as a slush fund to incite terror in immigrant communities," the statement reads. "The efficacy of a government agency must be determined by assessing ‘outcomes.’

"By any reasonable measure, Donald Trump’s weaponization of ICE and CBP has been a failure," the lawmakers continued. "The Department of Homeland Security does not deserve an increase in funding, and that is why we intend to vote no on this funding package."

The latest spending bill—which is likely to pass with broad support from both parties—would give $14.9 billion to Customs and Border Protection, $7.6 billion to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and agree to $1.375 billion for 55 miles of President Donald Trump's border wall, the sticking point in budget negotiations since the start of his tenure.

“As with all compromises, I say to people, ‘Support the bill for what is in it,’” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Wednesday, discussing her message to Democratic lawmakers in the House. “Don’t judge it for what is not in it. We have other days to pass other legislation.”

But that won't cut it for Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley, Omar, and Tlaib, all of whom called to defund and abolish ICE during their campaigns for House seats.

Ocasio-Cortez was among the first 2018 congressional candidates to call for the agency's abolition, announcing her position about three months before she would defeat incumbent Joe Crowley in her June primary.

“Any American who’s concerned with due process should be concerned with ICE,” Ocasio-Cortez told Newsweek in April. “Calling to abolish ICE is less radical than the establishment of ICE in the first place.”

At the time, many still considered Ocasio-Cortez a long-shot candidate, and calling to abolish the federal agency had yet to gain a strong foothold in mainstream political discourse, as it later would over the summer, amid the Trump administration's family separation policy. Pressley issued a statement calling to eliminate ICE in June, saying the agency was "creating an atmosphere of toxic fear and mistrust in immigrant communities." Tlaib followed suit a few days later, arguing that ICE has been "terrorizing our communities with zero accountability." And around the same time, Omar included abolishing ICE as part of her progressive vision for office: "Together we can pass universal, single-payer healthcare, abolish ICE and private prisons, ensure debt-free college, and move ourselves toward 100% clean energy," she tweeted.

Ocasio-Cortez has taken a stand against ICE once before in this year's spending negotiations. Last month, voted no on a spending bill to reopen the government because the legislation allocated funding for ICE. Casting the vote involved Ocasio-Cortez going against her own party: The bill earned the support of 223 Democrats and six Republicans. Ocasio-Cortez was the sole no vote among her Democratic colleagues in the House.

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Ocasio-Cortez's and her fellow freshman colleagues' willingness to take a stand against ICE has left many feeling that it's possible to advance policy in Congress to eliminate the agency.

"AOC has proven again to be a true leader on abolish ICE and I have no doubt she will be unwavering," Data for Progress cofounder Sean McElwee, often credited with leading early calls on the left to abolish ICE, told Broadly last month, after the New York Congresswoman's sole no vote. "I am confident that we will see legislation to abolish ICE in the 116th Congress."