(CNSNews.com) – Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) joined freshmen colleagues outside the Capitol on Thursday to call for an end to funding for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, accusing it of “repeatedly and systematically” violating human rights and pursuing a “radical agenda.”
"[A]n agency like ICE, which repeatedly and systematically violates human rights, does not deserve a dime," she said. "They do not deserve a dime.”
Speaking two days after President Trump in his State of the Union vowed to “never abolish our heroes from ICE,” Ocasio-Cortez hit back, saying the president was asking for $5 billion “to continue to militarize and weaponize a force that has zero accountability.”
She went on to recall that, at a congressional hearing in December, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen had been unable to give the exact number of immigrant children who have died while in government custody – or as Ocasio-Cortez put it, “how many children are dying in her own care, under her own watch.”
“And they have the audacity to ask for more money to fund that? I don’t think so,” she continued.
“Not only will we not agree to fund that, but we’re to say that an agency like ICE, which repeatedly and systematically violates human rights, does not deserve a dime. They do not deserve a dime.”
“Until they can prove that they are honoring human rights, until they can make a good-faith effort to expand and embrace immigrants – the immigrants in this nation that have always been a part, and have always been a core element of American democracy. Until they can prove good faith to an American ideal they do not deserve any resources for their radical agenda.”
Also taking part in the small event in Washington were freshmen Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.).
“Time and again this administration has put profits before people, and rhetoric before the lives of immigrant children,” said Pressley. “It is clear that we must reduce, and not increase funds, to DHS.”
In reference to DHS, ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), she added that forums exist in Congress where “we can and must rapidly rein in the inhumane behavior of these agencies.”
“In the meantime, not one more dollar.”
Responding to Ocasio-Cortez’ stances, Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said they were “endangering” the nation.
“Last year, ICE removed a Nazi from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s district. Her response: Abolish ICE,” McDaniel tweeted. “This week, MS-13 murdered someone in her district. Her response: Abolish ICE.”
“AOC’s calls aren’t just endangering her community, they're endangering the entire country.”
Assaults, sex crimes, killings
In his speech on Tuesday, Trump said that over the past two years, “our brave ICE officers made 266,000 arrests of criminal aliens, including those charged or convicted of nearly 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 killings or murders.”
He introduced one of his SOTU guests, ICE Special Agent Elvin Hernandez, who as a boy immigrated from the Dominican Republic with his family.
“At the age of eight, Elvin told his dad he wanted to become a special agent,” Trump said. “Today, he leads investigations into the scourge of international sex trafficking.”
The president said that thanks to the work of Hernandez and his colleagues, “more than 300 women and girls have been rescued from the horror of this terrible situation, and more than 1,500 sadistic traffickers have been put behind bars. Thank you Elvin.”
“We will always support the brave men and women of law enforcement, and I pledge to you tonight that I will never abolish our heroes from ICE.”
As the chamber applauded Hernandez, Ocasio-Cortez was seen appearing to consult briefly with a colleague, before standing. She did not join those around her clapping.
In separate incidents last December two Guatemalan children, Felipe Alonzo-Gomez, 8, and Jakelin Caal, 7, died while in CBP custody along the southwest border, leading to calls for congressional investigations.
Ocasio-Cortez referred in her remarks to Nielsen’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee in December – after Caal died but before Alonzo-Gomez’ death – when in response to questions about the deaths of immigrant children she said she did not have an exact figure and would not like to “guess under oath.”
Four days later, Nielsen confirmed that “there were six migrant deaths while in CBP custody during FY 2018 – none whom were children. In fact, it has been more than a decade since CBP has had a child pass away in their custody.”
“In response to the unprecedented surge of children into our custody, I have directed a series of extraordinary protective measures,” she said, including thorough medical screening for all children in Border Patrol custody, and assistance from CDC experts and the U.S. Coast Guard Medical Corps.
Nielsen also pointed out that over the past year, “the Border Patrol assisted more than 4,300 people in distress along the border.”