PolitiFact: O’Rourke said he’s open to abolishing ICE — with caveats


Republican Ted Cruz, seeking re-election to the U.S. Senate, calls Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke too extreme and reckless for Texas in a video ad including the charge that O’Rourke, the El Paso congressman, is amenable to wiping out the nation’s lead immigration agency.

In the ad, Cruz’s narrator says: “Not even Nancy Pelosi is open to abolishing ICE. But Beto is.” Imagery shows Pelosi and O’Rourke and an excerpt of a Texas Tribune story stating: “… I’m open to doing that …”

In a July 1 news release, Cruz takes note of a Tribune report that O’Rourke had said he was open to abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an idea embraced by some Democrats upset by actions including the separation of children and parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

So is O’Rourke open to offing ICE?

He said as much in July, we confirmed, though he also declared that he wouldn’t support abolition without a plan to shift its responsibilities elsewhere. More recently, O’Rourke has said abolition by itself doesn’t make sense.

Our search for relevant news accounts led us to a July 2 Tribune news story quoting O’Rourke initially saying at a San Antonio campaign stop that he’s open to doing away with ICE or changing how it performs and giving its enforcement duties to another entity — and, in the same appearance, saying he opposes abolishing ICE.

Tribune reporter Patrick Svitek posted a tweet quoting O’Rourke at length.

O’Rourke agreed with a person at the campaign event who asked him about ICE. O’Rourke was quoted as saying there has “to be a better way of enforcing our laws, not using those tactics that instill fear, that do not reflect the best of us, not separating children from their parents at the border and keeping them in cages. And so if there’s another, better way to enforce our immigration laws — and I hope we’re all on the same page that we want to make sure that laws are enforced, we want to make sure that our laws reflect who we are and that we change those laws to make sure that we make the most out of all of us — then I’m open to that.”

O’Rourke’s reply went on: “And if that involves doing away with this agency, giving that responsibility to somebody else, changing how this agency performs, I’m open to doing that.”

Next, according to the reporter, someone asked: “So would you abolish ICE?” O’Rourke replied. “No. So let me be really clear: I don’t know enough about how we would perform those same enforcement functions, if through another part of the Department of Homeland Security. But if you’re saying abolish the tactics that I just described, yes. I don’t know if you have to abolish the agency to do that.”

We also found a July 6 Houston Chronicle news story stating O’Rourke had stopped short of calling for ICE’s elimination but was willing to discuss the idea. According to the story, O’Rourke said in Hillsboro that he’s willing to discuss eliminating ICE but that alone would not solve the problem. O’Rourke said it doesn’t matter if agencies like ICE and Homeland Security are eliminated if such moves don’t address practices including the separation of children from parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Most recently, O’Rourke was asked about abolishing ICE in an interview with ABC Radio’s “Powerhouse Politics Podcast.” O’Rourke replied: “I just don’t understand it. It’s not clear to me what that would accomplish.”

O’Rourke elaborated that abolishing the agency wouldn’t solve the separation of children from parents or the deaths of migrants near the border. “Abolishing ICE does nothing to solve any of those issues,” O’Rourke said, in contrast to making changes in federal policy.

Our ruling:

Cruz said in his ad that O’Rourke is “open to abolishing ICE.”

O’Rourke has said he’s open to abolishing ICE. However, he also said he wasn’t in favor of eliminating the agency without ensuring its enforcement duties were assigned elsewhere.

We rate this claim Mostly True.



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