Politics

ICE Chief Defends His Agency From Attacks: ‘We’re Not Nazis’

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) acting Director Matthew Albence pushed back against Nazi comparisons made by liberal critics of the agency, noting that agents are simply enforcing the law.

“We’re not Nazis,” Albence said during an ABC News interview, a portion of which was published Thursday. The acting director’s comments were in reference to numerous comparisons of ICE detention centers to concentration camps. Amid President Donald Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration, more opponents of the administration have turned their ire on federal immigration authorities.

New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez first popularized the “concentration camp” comparison among progressives, although she claims the analogy did not necessarily pertain to Nazi Germany. However, liberal protest groups such as Never Again Action have since equated ICE to Nazism and continually demonstrate against the agency.

Some Democratic lawmakers have gone so far as to suggest that ICE should be abolished altogether, arguing that the agency is instilling “fear” into immigrant communities for their ongoing deportation raids.

Witness Matthew Albence, executive associate director Enforcement And Removal Operations U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is sworn in during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled "Oversight of Immigration Enforcement and Family Reunification Efforts" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 31, 2018. REUTERS/Allison Shelley

Witness Matthew Albence, executive associate director Enforcement And Removal Operations U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is sworn in during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled “Oversight of Immigration Enforcement and Family Reunification Efforts” on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 31, 2018. REUTERS/Allison Shelley

“No I don’t think I have to address the fear,” Albence said about such accusations. “If you are here in this country illegally you are subject to arrest and, if ordered removed by an immigration judge, removal from this country. That hasn’t changed.”

As inflammatory rhetoric against the agency has increased, so have physical attacks.

An Antifa terrorist died in a shootout with police in July when he attempted to blow up an ICE detention center — a manifesto written by the man included an excerpt where he referred to detention centers as “concentration camps.” In the following month, an ICE office in San Antonio was shot at several times overnight, leaving shattered glass. FBI investigators determined that the shooting was coordinated, and not just a random act of violence.

The attacks have prompted acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan to direct Federal Protective Service to supply ICE facilities across the U.S. with enhanced security.

Albence blamed the concentration camp comparisons to the rise in violence against the agency.

“It’s [that kind of language] that results in people who may not be of sound mind doing things like shooting bullets into an ICE facility in San Antonio, Texas, almost hitting one of my agents. Or trying to blow up a detention facility and hurt the individuals there working, as well the detainees that are detained there,”Albence said. (RELATED: Ilhan Omar Compares U.S. Immigrant Detention Centers To African Slave Camps)

In addition to the disparaging comparisons, ICE agents are also dealing with an increasing number of local law enforcement jurisdictions refusing to cooperate with them — a result of “sanctuary” laws being enacted by Democratic-leaning politicians. Albence said such laws are a result of people putting politics above the safety of the community.

“Unfortunately the politics of this have gotten so bad that they would rather put these politics over public safety,” he said.

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