Florida Democratic Senator Says Don't Abolish Ice, 'Abolish Trump'

Democrats across the country have increasingly called for the abolishment of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, over its policies and the handling of thousands of separated families who crossed the southern border illegally. The "abolish ICE" phrase has also gained notoriety thanks to the Occupy ICE movement

But Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson has a different rallying cry: Abolish Trump.

"I don't want to abolish ICE,” Nelson told the Tampa Bay Times’s editorial board in an interview Monday. “I want to abolish Trump. ICE is merely the administrative agency. It's the policies in that agency that is the problem."

Nelson was speaking to the policies forced on ICE by the Trump administration and has not said he would support impeaching the president. 

Under the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy, ICE began taking undocumented detainees to federal prisons and separating thousands of migrant children from their parents who illegally crossed the border.

The Occupy ICE movement gave way to protests earlier this year and calls to abolish the agency. Some of the agency’s own officers and leaders wrote a letter to Homeland Security Director Kirstjen Nielsen asking her to abolish ICE.

Former ICE Director John Sandweg echoed Nelson's stance in July on MSNBC, saying the movement "should be an 'abolish Trump' movement, not an 'abolish ICE' movement." He argued that ICE was simply following the new direction put in place by the Trump administration and the Justice Department to enact stricter policies and separate families. 

Nelson’s remarks differed from past comments made by fellow Democrat and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a more left-leaning progressive running to be the state’s next governor who was endorsed by Senator Bernie Sanders in the primary. Gillum has advocated to abolish ICE and to impeach Trump. 

The senator's differing policy stances could be because he's in a hotly contested re-election race, battling Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott in hopes of maintaining his seat to become a four-term U.S. senator.

A pro-Nelson ad by a democratic political action committee went so far as to label Nelson as “one of America’s most independent senators.” PolitiFact rated the claim “half true” because while Nelson was one of the more conservative Democrats when it came to his legislative record, being “independent” still required lawmakers to reach across the aisle for negotiations.

Breaking from progressive norms again, Nelson said he does not support the universal healthcare plan that liberal Democrats like Bernie Sanders and congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have called for: Medicare-for-all.

"I've got enough trouble just trying to save Obamacare," Nelson said. "I'm into results."

A Reuters/Ipsos poll from August 23 showed 85 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of Republicans supported Medicare-for-all.

The single-payer healthcare model would provide government-funded Medicare to everyone. Currently, only those older than 65 years old qualify.

Supporters say it would save money by cutting out middle-man insurance companies, lower administrative costs and allow the government to lower the cost of healthcare services. Critics argue the cost of the program would lead to increased taxes and would outweigh the benefits to families.

Nelson did not immediately respond to Newsweek’s request on Tuesday to expand on either topic of healthcare or his “abolish Trump” comments.

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