Vice President Pence targeted New York lawmakers Friday as he blasted the growing backlash against Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Pence’s full-throated defense of the embattled federal agency comes as protesters, Democratic politicians and candidates and a host of left-leaning groups demand an end to the offshoot of the Department of Homeland Security amid criticisms of the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
“The American people have every right to engage in peaceful protest, but these threats against ICE officers and their families must stop, and they must stop now,” Pence said as he addressed agents at ICE headquarters in D.C.
The VP went on to namedrop Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Mayor de Blasio as he cited examples of Democrats who have called for the disbanding of the agency.
"The truth is opposition of ICE has moved to the center of the Democratic party itself,” he said. “Just when you thought the Democrats couldn't move farther to the left, leading members of the Democratic party, including candidates for higher office, are actually openly advocating the abolition of ICE.”
He even made mention of gubernatorial candidate and former “Sex in the City” star Cynthia Nixon.
“A leading candidate for governor of New York actually even appallingly called this agency a terrorist organization,” he said, without mentioning Nixon by name.
Pence sought to assure the roughly 200 employees in the briefing room that their jobs were safe as long as President Trump occupies the White House.
"The President sent me here today with a very important message: Under President Donald Trump, we will never abolish ICE," he said.
“Abolish ICE,” a social media-savvy slogan that protesters have chanted in the wake of Trump’s disastrous approach to immigration, has been adopted in recent weeks by a handful of left-leaning politicians.
Gillibrand last week called for a reimagining of the agency.
"I believe that it has become a deportation force. And I think you should separate out the criminal justice from the immigration issues,” she said. “And I think you should reimagine ICE under a new agency with a very different mission and take those two missions out.”
The agency, a subsidiary of DHS, was created in 2003 as part of the federal government’s response to the 9/11 terror attacks, has largely been targeted in response to the separation of kids from their families after entering the U.S. from Mexico.
ICE, which does not patrol the southern border, has also faced backlash over targeting undocumented immigrants at local courthouses, including those in the city.
Pence’s speech came a day after the White House issued an official defense of the law enforcement unit.
“Calls to abolish ICE are an insult to these heroic law enforcement officers who make sacrifices every day to secure our borders, enforce our laws, and protect our safety and security,” the White House said in the a press release that included the slogan: “Save ICE.”