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It Turns Out ‘Abolish ICE’ Isn’t Really That Popular

A new poll finds the movement to “Abolish ICE,” which 2020 Democratic candidates hyped last year, is only backed by a quarter of Democrats.


Remember the Abolish ICE movement last year? The one that so many 2020 Democratic presidential candidates rallied around? As far as Democratic activists were concerned, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency that patrols and enforces immigration law in the interior of the country was a kind of jack-booted Gestapo that had to be dismantled and replaced.

Activists weren’t the only ones. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Kirsten Gillibrand were all early supporters of the Abolish ICE movement, and made headlines last summer with bold statements about how ICE doesn’t “reflect our values” and how we need to “start from scratch.” Sen. Bernie Sander tweeted it was time to “abolish the cruel, dysfunctional immigration system we have today,” which would mean “restructuring” ICE.

But it turns out not very many Democrats agree. A new AP/NORC poll found only a quarter of Democrats want to abolish ICE. That’s despite the poll also finding that 57 percent of Democrats have a negative view of the agency.

This helps explain why so few Democratic presidential hopefuls want to talk about abolishing ICE anymore. Gillibrand even claimed to Buzzfeed that she never said “abolish,” but actually last summer she did. Asked about the border and immigration this week on “The View,” Beto O’Rourke didn’t mention ICE at all, instead expressing vague sentiments about how immigrants strengthen the country.

Democratic activists aren’t too happy about the unpopularity of the Abolish ICE movement. One of them told a Buzzfeed reporter that “It’s a little harmful,” that top Democrats have dropped the issue. “Everybody was using it as the big hot topic or issue, but nobody is putting the model forward of what that means, or the possibilities of what that looks like.”

It’s worth remembering how popular Abolish ICE was last year among Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other left-wing Democrats. That support for the movement has dropped off so dramatically indicates that perhaps the far-left wing of the party isn’t as influential as is often assumed—at least not on immigration.