Congressman Mark Pocan, angered by recent visits to facilities near the U.S.-Mexico border that carry out federal policies that separated migrant families, says he wants to eliminate the nation's immigration-enforcement agency and form a commission to decide how to replace it.
Pocan, D-Black Earth, plans to introduce legislation to that effect this week, according to a statement from his office. It would eliminate Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, a federal law-enforcement agency that operates as part of the Department of Homeland Security.
Pocan's plan calls for creating "a commission to provide recommendations to Congress on how the U.S. government can implement a humane immigration enforcement system that upholds the dignity of all individuals, while transferring necessary functions to other agencies."
“During my trip to the southern border, it was clear that ICE, and its actions of hunting down and tearing apart families, has wreaked havoc on far too many people," Pocan said.
"Unfortunately," Pocan continued, "President Trump and his team of white nationalists, including Stephen Miller, have so misused ICE that the agency can no longer accomplish its goals effectively."
The Trump administration earlier this year imposed a "zero-tolerance" policy on families crossing the U.S. border that led to a recent spike in family separations. Trump reversed that policy in an executive order Friday. Federal officials say some of the families have been reunited, but most have not.
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Pocan was part of a group of Democratic lawmakers who traveled to Texas last week. Among the facilities they visited was one in McAllen, Texas, where the U.S. Border Patrol houses people who recently were apprehended.
Upon returning, Pocan blasted the administration's "kid prisons," used to detain children separated from their parents in cages he said are “similar construction to the dog run in my backyard.”
Wisconsin Republicans such as state Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, responded to Pocan's proposal by suggesting he and other Democrats "want open borders."
"And Pocan hands Republicans a huge campaign issue to run on in November," Steineke tweeted.
Pocan spokesman Ron Boehmer said Pocan does not favor an "open borders" immigration policy and that the proposed new commission would tackle "what existing agencies would enforce U.S. immigration laws."
"Eliminating ICE does not mean eliminating laws, it just means the agency could not be used as a tool by the president to conduct raids and terrorize immigrant families," Boehmer said.