House Republicans claimed a victory Wednesday after a vote to support the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency passed by an overwhelming majority.
Taken 244-35, the nonbinding resolution was an exercise designed to embarrass. As NPR and POLITICO report, few expected Democrats to take up arms overtly. Even as liberals continue to berate ICE and its practices, criticism of the agency has so far fallen short of any real legislative action.
Instead, Democrats opted to take Wednesday as an opportunity to speak out against the Trump administration and its hardline immigration tactics. Thousands of families separated at the border from May onward still remain apart, despite a court order demanding their reunification within the coming week.
Much of liberals’ ire has been directed at ICE. While the agency saw an activity uptick under Barack Obama—earning the nation’s first African-American president the moniker “Deporter-in-Chief”—its targets have shifted from criminals to migrants without records. A rash of deportations since President Trump’s inauguration has drawn attention to ICE’s practices, as well as its newfound proclivity for arresting lawful U.S. residents with minor criminal records.
However, calls for the ICE’s abolition have just recently begun finding a regular place within the Democratic party line.
Wednesday’s vote was, to some extent, held to show far to the left liberals are beginning to drift. NPR writes that Republicans hoped to illustrate the out-sized influence of legislators like Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) on immigration policy.
According to NPR, Republican leaders—among them Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA)—wanted to see Democrats emphasize their differences. Those differences, suspects Scalise, could keep the Right afloat throughout the upcoming Midterm elections.
“I think it shows an important contrast in this country about what’s at stake in this November election,” said Scalise. “We want to stand up for our ICE agents and the people that are keeping America safe. They want to get rid of them.”
A broad refusal to participate on behalf of Democrats suggests they weren’t willing to take Scalise’s bait.
“We do not have the time to waste with political stunts like this bill,” said New York Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler. “While the moral fiber of this country is torn apart.”
Nadler and 132 of his Democratic colleagues voted “present” on the bill, avoiding any side in the largely political referendum.
Immigration has come to exemplify the “split” between the Democratic and Republican parties—a fact not lost on the president, who maintains that liberals support illegal immigration and criminal organizations alike.
“The two biggest opponents of ICE in America today are the Democratic Party and MS-13!” tweeted Trump on Tuesday.
Last month, Trump told supporters in Nashville that he hopes Democratic opposition to his immigration policies continue. In the president’s head, little’s gone wrong with his endeavors aside from the squabbling of an incompetent liberal caucus.
Democrats like Washington’s Pramila Jayapal disagrees.
“We know we win on family separation and we know we win on immigration in general,” said Rep. Jayapal. “I think his divisive tactics play to his core base who are going to be with him on anything … but the majority of people do want checks and balances on this president.”