In his quest to become Florida’s next governor, Republican Ron DeSantis has embraced President Donald Trump’s rhetoric against illegal immigration. He’s also labeled his Democratic opponent Andrew Gillum as someone who doesn’t care about enforcing immigration laws.
"He wants to abolish ICE and doesn't believe in doing any type of immigration enforcement," DeSantis said of Gillum during a Sept. 2 interview with New York radio host John Catsimatidis. (ICE is the acronym for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency in charge of executing immigration laws within the United States.)
Gillum has called for abolishing ICE but has also said that ICE needs to be "replaced with a more compassionate and focused agency" focused on immigration issues.
DeSantis resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives on Sept. 10 to focus on his campaign. Election Day is Nov. 6.
Gillum, Tallahassee’s mayor, is among Democrats who have criticized ICE since media reports said newly arriving immigrant families were being separated at the border.
This summer, the Trump administration employed a "zero-tolerance" policy to refer for prosecution all immigrants who enter the United States illegally. That resulted in more than 2,000 children being separated from their parents. The government has since reunified most of them due to a court order, but hundreds of children remain without their parents.
"It's time to abolish ICE in its current form to be replaced with a more compassionate and focused agency that actually keeps us safer," Gillum posted on Facebook on July 3. "Donald Trump has turned ICE into a police and child separation agency — not a border enforcement agency that treats people humanely and compassionately."
Gillum’s claim that Trump turned ICE from being a "border enforcement agency" is flawed, because ICE doesn’t enforce laws at the border. The agency that does that is U.S. Customs and Border Protection, or CBP.
What’s ICE’s role? ICE agents pick up people already living in the United States illegally. A division of ICE also investigates and arrests people involved in gangs and human trafficking. ICE also oversees detention facilities that house people waiting a resolution of their immigration case or waiting to be deported.
Some Democrats in Congress calling for the abolition of ICE have muddled the distinction between the two agencies. Republicans have done so, too; claiming that getting rid of ICE equals a call for open borders.
Overall, there isn’t a unified Democratic message behind the "abolish ICE" movement. For some, it means a restructuring of the agency, a new focus, or shifting responsibilities to other agencies. Others want to see ICE shuttered and a new agency rise in its place. Generally, however, they aren’t calling for end to immigration enforcement.
"We want to replace ICE with the Department of Justice, an entity that has not been tarnished in the same way as ICE has," Gillum said during an Aug. 29 CNN interview after winning the Democratic primary.
In his July Facebook post, Gillum wrote that "a decision between security or compassionate immigration policy is a false choice," and promised to fight for both as governor.
What’s DeSantis’s evidence that Gillum doesn't believe in any type of immigration enforcement? He cites instances when Gillum spoke in favor of immigrants (including ones here illegally) and against measures that he believes would discriminate or criminalize them.
But Gillum hasn’t said no laws should be enforced.
Gillum is against requiring that Florida employers use what’s now a voluntary program called E-Verify. That program checks a person’s identity and employment eligibility by electronically matching his or her information to federal databases, including immigration records. Gillum has said that requiring E-Verify "criminalizes people's personhood." (Some employers with federal contracts are required to enroll in E-Verify.)
Gillum also opposes "mass deportations" and believes immigration enforcement should remain a federal matter. He criticized Trump for threatening to cut federal funds from cities that limit their cooperation with federal agents. Trump calls those places "sanctuary cities."
Gillum told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that as governor he would "promote mutual trust and cooperation between law enforcement and immigrant communities, regardless of immigration status."
DeSantis said Gillum, "wants to abolish ICE and doesn't believe in doing any type of immigration enforcement."
Gillum said "it's time to abolish ICE," joining some Democrats making similar calls after reports of family separations at the border. However, Gillum also said ICE needed to be replaced with a more "focused agency." He hasn’t advocated against the enforcement of all immigration laws.
DeSantis’s statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context. We rate it Half True.