Newly sworn-in Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took to the airwaves on Tuesday night to slam President Donald Trump’s immigration stance after the president interrupted prime time programming to make his case for a US-Mexico border wall.
Ocasio-Cortez was one of several prominent Democratic lawmakers to appear on national television to condemn the president’s speech, and her comments came after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer delivered the party’s official rebuttal. They called the president’s speech “full of misinformation and even malice.”
The freshman member of Congress, who campaigned on a call to eliminate the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, argued that the president should re-direct his efforts to providing better care for the thousands of women and children seeking refuge in the US. She also pointed to a child who died on Christmas Day while in ICE custody on the border.
“Those women and children trying to come here with nothing but the shirts on their back to create an opportunity and to provide for this nation are acting more in an American tradition than this president is right now,” she told MSNBC on Tuesday night. “The president should be really defending why we are funding [ICE] at all because right now, what we are seeing, is death.”
The progressive New York Democrat’s congressional district, which includes parts of the Bronx and Queens, is 47% foreign-born.
“No one should feel unsafe in the United States of America, and that includes our amazing and beautiful and productive immigrant community,” Ocasio-Cortez went on.
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During his address Tuesday night, Trump linked migrants crossing the southern border to crime in the US, stoking fear about brutal murders and citing several instances where Americans died at the hands of immigrants living in the US illegally.
Ocasio-Cortez pointed out that both legal and undocumented immigrants in the US commit crimes at lower rates than native-born Americans and that the majority of undocumented immigrants are individuals who overstay their legal immigrant visas, rather than those who cross the southern border illegally.
The new lawmaker also talked about the fear that Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric has sown among immigrants, including those she worked with in the restaurant industry in New York.
“I remember one of our lead cooks brought himself back to Mexico because he was so scared of the president’s rhetoric,” she said. “We had an insane amount of dysfunction.”
Ocasio-Cortez does not appear to have immediate plans to move forward on the elimination of ICE, but her chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti recently told INSIDER that the team will work with other progressive lawmakers on a broader immigration policy that includes abolishing the agency.
“We’ve got to talk a bit more about that one internally,” Chakrabarti said, adding that the team will likely sign on to a new effort to reframe the immigration debate around the economic demand for foreign workers.
On her first day in Congress last Thursday, Ocasio-Cortez voted “aye” on a continuing resolution to fund the Department of Homeland Security— which includes ICE— through February 8. The resolution contains no funding for a border wall.