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Many Democrats want to abolish ICE as the party pushes further left on immigration

New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon is among several Democratic candidates calling for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be abolished. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The latest development in the Democratic Party's stance on immigration reform is an increasing number of candidates calling for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be abolished, NBC News reported.

In the wake of a controversy about the treatment of children and families detained while trying to enter the United States illegally, some Democrats are taking the opportunity to escalate the rhetoric on immigration.

"We should abolish ICE and start over, focusing on our priorities to protect our families and our borders in a humane and thoughtful fashion," Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) wrote in a blog post. "Now is the time for immigration reform that ensures people are treated with compassion and respect. Not only because it is the moral thing to do, but it's better policy and will cost less."

Why abolish ICE?

Some Democrats believe that ICE, which is a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, unnecessarily treats illegal immigrants as a national security threat because of its organizational affiliation.

Generally, the politicians or candidates for office who are calling for ICE to be abolished are using the stance as a way to separate themselves from more established opponents or challengers. It isn't uncommon for Democratic underdogs to jump further left to stand out, as some have done in the past on issues of health care or minimum wage increases.

From NBC News:

The insurgents are not favored to win, but they've made waves and take credit for forcing the incumbents — including Rep. Joe Crowley, who is in line to potentially succeed Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California as the party’s leader — to move to the left on the issue.

Meanwhile, Florida Democrat Matt Haggman ‏just a launched a TV ad entirely focused on his desire to "close ICE down." He goes on to use that position to contrast himself with Donna Shalala, the Bill Clinton Cabinet official who is currently the frontrunning Democrat in the heavily Hispanic district.

Those calling for ICE to be abolished are still a minority. NBC News reported that 15 Democratic congressional candidates have run on a platform to abolish or de-fund ICE. But the movement appears to be gaining some momentum within the party.

Sen. Kamala Harris, a rising star in the Democratic Party and a potential 2020 presidential candidate, suggested on NBC's "Meet the Press" that the government should "think about starting from scratch" with ICE.

Harris's comments represent a change in tone from March, when she said on MSNBC that "ICE has a purpose, ICE has a role, ICE should exist. But let's not abuse the power. Let's not extend it to areas that are not posing a threat to the safety and public safety of these communities."

Other supporters of abolishing ICE include Cynthia Nixon, who is challenging New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the Democratic nomination, and Randy Bryce, who is running in House Speaker Paul Ryan's Wisconsin district.

Blaming Trump?

Sean McElwee is an activist who has helped push the idea of abolishing ICE. He seemed to acknowledge that, for Democrats, it took a president they didn't like to get them to acknowledge the problems with the immigration system, most of which existed under previous administrations.

"Trump's boorishness has exposed the fundamental inhumanity of the system for Democrats in a way that they were never going to see when Obama was president," McElwee said.

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