Sen. Edward Markey joined the growing chorus of Senate Democrats calling to abolish the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE, after a visit to detention centers at the border in Southern Texas.
“ICE does need to be dismantled and reconstructed,” Markey said during an interview with Boston Public Radio Tuesday. “It has turned into a massive deportation army that is experiencing the worst kind of mission creep under the Trump administration.”
According to Markey, agents from ICE and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) said they have not yet begun the process of reuniting parents with children. “Right now, ICE told me and HHS told me that they have no instructions, no plan which has been given to them to reunite those children,” Markey said.
According to a statement released by the Trump administration, 522 out of the over 2,000 children who were separated from their parents have been reunited with them. According to Markey, claims from ICE agents have sent a different message.
“It’s a very small number of kids who have been reunited with their parents. I mean, we’re talking about a handful thus far,” Markey said.
According to Markey, one detention center in Brownsville has 197 children, 63 of whom have been separated from their families, and “‘none of them have been reunited with their parents.”
A federal judge in California issued a preliminary injunction last Tuesday at the request of the American Civil Liberties Union, calling for immigrant children to be reunited with their parents within the next month.
The order gave ICE 14 days to reunite children younger than 5 and 30 days to reunite children younger than 17. If parents are not in contact with their children within 10 days, the federal government must allow parents to call their children.
“It’s a week to go for ICE and HHS to reunite the parents and the children under 5, they only have until next Tuesday, and they have not begun that process yet,” Markey said. “Then there’s another two weeks after next Tuesday where they have to reunite every other child, that is, the children under 17 with their parents, and they have no plan on that yet.”
President Trump has defended ICE, suggesting that Democrats’ calls to abolish the agency will doom them in the mid-term elections.
“We have to separate ICE’s public safety responsibilities ... from its deeply flawed immigration enforcement,” Markey said. “[It] does little more than terrorize law-abiding immigrant families from Lawrence to downtown Boston to the whole rest of our country.”