In November 2019, the following meme purporting to quote Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) on ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) presented the former’s position as “abolish ICE,” and the latter’s as “we need ICE”:
Titled “‘Abolish ICE’ vs. ‘We need ICE,'” Sanders was featured at the top next to the following text:
Bernie Sanders says he will abolish ICE and suspend deportations.
Next to Warren at the bottom, text read:
Elizabeth Warren says “we need ICE” for “our safety” against “threats” of drugs and terrorism and refuses to commit to suspending deportations.
A highly-upvoted comment at the top remarked:
I was for Warren until she said that. Now Im all in for Bernie
No citations or source material was included with the post. On Sanders’ official campaign website under “Issues,” the very first tab was labeled “A Welcoming and Safe America for All.” Clicking on it led to Sen. Sanders’ position on immigration and border authorities:
Bernie believes we must stand up for our values and accept refugees, asylum-seekers, and families who come to the United States in search of the American Dream.
Two of five “Key Points” bullet points held:
Completely reshape and reform our immigration enforcement system, including breaking up ICE and CBP and redistributing their functions to their proper authorities.
Dismantle cruel and inhumane deportation programs and detention centers and reunite families who have been separated.
It seemed fair to say “breaking up” ICE was identical to “abolish[ing] ICE,” making the top half of the meme roughly accurate. On Warren’s campaign website, her platform was labeled “Plans.”
Warren’s top three “Plans” did not have to do immigration reform, but those who scrolled down would see a tab labeled “A Fair and Welcoming Immigration System.” Third under a subheading of “Eliminating Abusive Enforcement” was a section mentioning ICE by name.
According to that proposal, Warren sought to “remake CBP [Customs and Border Patrol] and ICE in a way that reflects our values,” and did not call to abolish ICE:
Remake CBP and ICE in a way that reflects our values. Our immigration agencies should protect Americans and uphold the rule of law, not pursue punitive anti-immigrant policies that target communities of color. I’ll hold immigration enforcement to the same due process standards as other law enforcement agencies — no more warrantless arrests or stops deep in the interior of our country. I’ll reshape CBP and ICE from top to bottom, focusing their efforts on homeland security efforts like screening cargo, identifying counterfeit goods, and preventing smuggling and trafficking. And to change the culture, I’ll insist on transparency and strengthen the authorities of independent internal watchdogs to prevent future abuses.
The word “abolish” did not appear on Warren’s immigration platform plank, nor was “need” coupled with “ICE.” However, a November 11 2019 tweet featured video of Warren speaking, during which she did utter the “we need ICE” remarks:
A November 8 2019 article in The Hill featured a longer version of the same (non-embeddable) video, featuring Warren’s remarks at a North Carolina town hall appearance that same day. In the remarks, Warren indicated she was “open to suspending deportations, particularly as a way to push Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.”
The “we need ICE” comment was taken from half of a long sentence, in which Warren said:
I believe that what we’re doing right now with ICE focusing on people who do not pose a threat [pause] that when ICE comes into our communities, takes our neighbors, our friends, our family members, that they do not make this country safer … and that we need ICE and Customs and Border Patrol just focused on real threats from terrorism, container shipping that comes into the United States, contraband that we have to worry about, uh, fentanyl that we need to be focused on. There are places that we should focus for our safety, but tearing families apart is not that.
Clearly, Warren said “we need ICE.” But her complete response (perhaps too long for tweets) included words directly thereafter: “focused on real threats …” Warren was saying that she believed ICE ought to focus on contraband, shipping containers, and drugs like fentanyl instead of “tearing families apart.”
In the aggregate, it’s true that Warren said “we need ICE,” adding that the agency was necessary to combat terrorism and fentanyl, as well as decrying families torn apart. It was also true Sanders’ shorter position involved “breaking up ICE,” and “redistributing their functions to their proper authorities.” As such, it was true that Sanders’ stood to abolish ICE and Warren to retain it, but due to the entirety of Warren’s remarks, the meme is decontextualized.