A resolution supporting Immigrations and Customs Enforcement passed in the House of Representatives last week with the support of 226 Republicans and 18 Democrats — including Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove).
“Open borders is not a winning policy,” Suozzi said following last week’s vote.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.), was essentially a vote of confidence for the immigration agency that was founded in 2003.
A growing number of Democratic voters are calling on the government to abolish ICE, but only 35 Democrats and a single Republican voted against the bill of support. A majority of Democrats were marked as “present” while eight representatives from each party abstained from voting.
Most of the Democrats who voted for the measure were either part of the Blue Dog Coalition of conservative Dems or came from a district that voted for Donald Trump in 2016.
Suozzi made an appearance on “Fox and Friends” on Friday to explain his vote. Although he said he supports ICE, he said the vote had more to do with playing politics.
“ICE is an important government agency, and I thought this was a political stunt, quite frankly, to put it on the floor,” he said. “I mean, why don’t we put it on the floor that we support the intelligence agencies after the president knocked them?”
He noted that Republicans supported abolishing the IRS in 2015. He also clarified that while he supported ICE, he did not support the policy of separating families and still felt that Dreamers should have a path to citizenship.
But he did say he was open to compromise with President Donald Trump, including the building of a “physical structure” along the border (although he would rather the money go to radar and border patrol agents, he said).
On Monday, Suozzi issued a statement clarifying his remarks on Fox.
“I support this important government agency that helps protect our borders, fights human trafficking and drug dealing,” he said. “I strongly disagree with this administrations separation of families and other immigration policies… these folks are terrified. Let’s get them paying taxes and living productive lives out in the open. Enough with the political games.”
Suozzi’s remarks drew criticism from both his left and right.
His Republican challenger in this fall’s election, Dan DeBono, took to Twitter to accuse Suozzi of “lying through his teeth on national tv.”
He posted a letter from Suozzi on Twitter, where the congressman wrote that undocumented people should not be prevented from working in the United States.
“You blatanty [sic] lie that you are a ‘strong supporter of strong border security’ or against open borders while YOU seek instant legalization of illegals over AMERICAN job seekers,” he wrote.
Josh Sauberman, an independent challenging Suozzi to his left, criticized him for supporting ICE. Sauberman has repeatedly called for the abolishment of the agency.
My opponent [Suozzi] saw fit to defend [ICE] despite bearing witness to the tent cities going up along our border,” Sauberman wrote on Twitter. “We must
#AbolishICE and replace it with an agency that will balance border security and upholding rule of law w/ humanity.”
Reach reporter Luke Torrance by email at email@example.com, by phone at 516-307-1045, ext. 214, or follow him on Twitter @LukeATorrance.