Stephen Dinan, Washington Times, November 15, 2018
Senate Democrats compared ICE to the Ku Klux Klan Thursday, saying the agency’s deportation officers have earned an evil perception among “many” people, and it’s up to the acting chief to change that.
“Do you see any parallels?” Sen. Kamala Harris asked of Ronald D. Vitiello, the acting director at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, during a confirmation hearing for his nomination to become permanent director.
Mr Vitiello flatly rejected the comparison, saying there was no parallel, and demanded to know whether the senator was really trying to draw an equivalency.
Ms. Harris, California Democrat, denied that, but said that “perception” exists and the chief must grapple with it.
“I’m very specific about what I’m asking,” she said. “Are you aware that there’s a perception that ICE is administering its power in a way that is causing fear and intimidation particularly among immigrants and specifically among immigrants coming from Mexico and Central America?”
Ms. Harris’s line of questions drew a rebuke from Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel.
“Kamala Harris is trying to launch her 2020 campaign off of comparing ICE officers to the KKK, and it’s absolutely disgusting,” she tweeted.
He didn’t name names, but some of ICE’s fiercest critics are on Capitol Hill, where the “Abolish ICE” movement gained steam over the summer.
Much of that anger is directed at ICE’s mission of detaining and deporting illegal immigrants, which is performed by the agency’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) division. But ICE also leads on counterfeiting, drug-trafficking, combatting criminal gangs and nabbing terrorists — duties run out of the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division.
Sen. Maggie Hassan, New Hampshire Democrat, suggested it might be time to split the agency apart and leave HSI off on its own, so it’s not dragged down by perceptions of the detention and deportation mission.
Mr. Vitiello said splitting was a bad idea.
In other testimony, he chided sanctuary cities for refusing to cooperate on deportations, but also said he wants ICE to be as responsive as possible to those jurisdictions that do cooperate.
He said he remembered his days as a Border Patrol agent when “you could hand a detainer to a deputy on a road stop and they would honor it.”