- - Thursday, July 12, 2018

Kate Steinle was shot and killed on a San Francisco pier three years ago this month. Her death came at the hands of an illegal alien who had been previously deported five times and was a convicted felon. It also ignited a national discussion about sanctuary city policies that is still going. Unfortunately, Democrats’ new proposal to abolish the department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is moving the immigration debate in an unhealthy direction.

Sanctuary cities threaten public safety, cost taxpayers money and encourage more illegal immigration. However, the conversation has moved beyond cities, as states are now declaring themselves sanctuaries that will not comply with federal law. I was pleased that the Tennessee state legislature recently passed a bill that became law to ban sanctuary policies.

Encouraging legal immigration is fairer to those migrants who do follow our laws and it deters illegal entry if there is no false hope of amnesty. There was an average of over 490,000 apprehensions along our southwest border per year between FY2013 and FY2017 according to Customs and Border Patrol. We need more interior enforcement, not less.

Democrats’ recent proposal to abolish ICE is not a rational position by any objective standard. ICE’s mission “focuses on smart immigration enforcement, preventing terrorism and combatting the illegal movement of people and trade.” They form part of the “Thin Blue Line” that made over 4,800 gang related arrests in FY2017 while protecting Tennesseans from groups such as MS-13. ICE is also “one of the primary agencies responsible for combatting human trafficking,” which involves the exploitation of children under the age of 18.

In FY2016, ICE made 1,952 human trafficking arrests and assisted over 400 victims. President Trump recently signed legislation I helped lead, which would allow states and victims to go after online sex trafficking sites such as Backpage. In November, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation broke up a sex trafficking ring in Brentwood that resulted in 22 persons being indicted. Abolishing ICE would only place more Tennessee children in harm’s way.

ICE agents should be commended for their hard work at a time when the illegal alien population in the U.S. is estimated to be approximately 12 million persons. Instead, they have been the subject of intense “Occupy ICE” protests and even had an office vandalized in Albany, New York. On Wednesday, 100 “rowdy” ICE protestors surrounded ICE officials inside a small room at the City County Building in Knoxville. ICE was meeting with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office to chart responsibilities for the Sheriff’s office under the 287(g) program — which allows state and local law enforcement officers to help enforce federal immigration laws.

This program is vital to successful interior enforcement. However, an ICE spokesman was routinely interrupted during the meeting by shouts from protestors who were carrying signs which said “shame,” “resist” and “End287(g).” It was reported that the meeting quickly ended with only several questions being answered.

The actions of these protestors are entirely out of line and inappropriate. First, the lack of civility shocks the conscience. Their actions did nothing to advance a meaningful discussion and are beneath the appropriate level of tact one would expect at such a meeting. Moreover, as the vandalism in Albany reveals, there is a disturbing undercurrent of rage to the ICE protests. Protestors are walking a slippery slope between legitimate debate and inexcusable violence. Their actions appear aimed at having a chilling effect on speech and stifling dissent. Our law enforcement officers are the last people deserving of such treatment as it makes their job even more dangerous.

Second, this is part of a disturbing trend in the Democratic party to advocate for positions or take action that effectively nullifies our nation’s immigration laws. President Obama’s executive action, through DACA and DAPA, circumvented Congress by shielding illegal immigrants from prosecution and also provided them work permits. Mr. Obama did this despite saying on more than 20 occasions that he didn’t have the authority unilaterally change our immigration laws. Such tactics beg the question, if you can ignore one law, can you ignore others?

The false hope of amnesty only serves as a magnet to encourage more people to illegally cross our southern border. This makes America less safe and it is a dangerous journey for many of the children who are victimized by traffickers along the way. Therefore, I would respectfully submit to my Democratic colleagues that amnesty is not a compassionate solution. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

America has always been a nation of laws. Our system of government has thrived because separate but equal branches are responsible for writing, enforcing and interpreting our laws. When one branch fails to uphold its responsibility, it cracks the foundation of our democracy. Abolishing ICE would greatly weaken the executive branch’s ability to carry out interior enforcement and jeopardize the safety of Americans everywhere.

• Marsha Blackburn is a Republican U.S. representative from Tennessee.

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