Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggests dissolving Department Homeland Security

By Emily Tillett

/ CBS News

Lawmakers call border facilities "horrifying"

As Democrats continue to decry the Trump administration's strict immigration policies, calling for agencies like the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to be disbanded, freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is going one step further, suggesting that the Department of Homeland Security should be broken up.

During an interview with The New Yorker Radio Hour's David Remnick, Ocasio-Cortez appeared to blame the Bush administration for initially forming the agency back in 2002 in the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11th.

"I feel like we are, at a very, it's a very qualified and supported position, at least in terms of evidence, and in terms of being able to make the argument that we never should've created DHS in the early 2000s," said Ocasio-Cortez. She went on to say that she supported abolishing ICE, a common rallying cry among House Democrats.

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"Would you get rid of the Department of Homeland Security, too?" Remnick asked.

"I think so," she replied. "I think we need to undo a lot of the egregious mistakes that the Bush administration did."

Ocasio-Cortez cited her recent visit to a border detention facility in El Paso, Texas as grounds for disbanding the agency. She described the conditions in the facility as "horrible" and said she witnessed "some of the most inhumane behavior."

"It's not even living…it was the physical manifestation of Trump's rhetoric and calling migrants animals because that's how these women were being treated, their hair was falling out, they had sores in their mouths due to the lack of nutrition..the cruelty is the point," she said.

The congresswoman had previously come under fire for comparing the facilities to "concentration camps", a term she claims was "important" to use.

"This whole crisis and the treatment of migrants at our border has been this low-grade static background noise, torture that has been happening in our country and it's getting worse and worse and worse," she said.

It was during that trip to the border that Ocasio-Cortez confronted Customs and Border Patrol agents about a secret Facebook group where officers made light of migrant deaths and suggested violent and sexually explicit acts toward the congresswoman.

Ocasio-Cortez said that CBP management claimed during the confrontation that they had "no idea" about the group.

"If you did not know that there are 10,000 members in a violent Facebook group, you're either being dishonest or your management is terrible that you don't know about this. It's one of the two," she said. CBP has since said it has opened an internal investigation and informed the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general of the group.

Asked what a "sane immigration policy" looked like, Ocasio-Cortez said "we should not be using detention for people who have harmed no one."

"The United States has completely abdicated its responsibility and role in Latin America…we are not acting like an equal partner or neighbor in the western hemisphere," she added.

First published on July 10, 2019 / 9:46 AM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Emily Tillett

Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital

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