Debunking Charlie Kirk on ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

As Democrats have made ICE an issue for its voters, Charlie Kirk, founder and president of Turning Point USA, has made defending ICE his purpose repeatedly on his Twitter account. I previously debunked some of his tweets on immigration.

He usually cites some stat or story about an undocumented immigrant who gets arrested in a “sanctuary city” or a series of numbers tallying the arrests by ICE. See here, here, and here.

The third and most recent tweet from Sept. 9 seems to be based on this sweep by ICE that broke as news on Sept. 5.

He has also tweeted in June that “84% of the public support turning illegals over to ICE officials.” But the poll that put out that number has some issues in wording that very question, according to Politifact.

Travis View, senior researcher for the Contemptor in St. Louis and whose research on QAnon has been featured on NBC News and Right Wing Watch, posted some pictures on his Twitter account on Sept. 10 of QAnon users discussing a link between anti-ICE sentiment and Democrats in July. View has also shown how some of Kirk’s data on ICE mirros that posted by QAnon users. Kirk has since deleted the tweet.

Abolishing ICE?

Kirk has tweeted that Democrats want to “abolish” ICE and by doing that, they want to free criminals from justice.

There are some Democrats who want to “abolish,” “dismantle,” “re-image” or replace ICE, according to Politifact. Here is a deeper dive on that push.

For example, in a Facebook post, Sen. Elizabeth Warren wrote, “The President’s deeply immoral actions have made it obvious that we need to rebuild our immigration system from top to bottom, starting by replacing ICE with something that reflects our values.”

Kirk’s claim that therefore criminals would not be brought to justice is false.

Immigration laws were enforced before ICE was created in 2003, in the government reorganization after September 11 attacks. Such laws would be enforced with no ICE.

White Nationalism and ICE support

Kirk has also said that abolishing ICE for Democrats is part of a plan to not only gain undocumented immigrants as voters, but also “destabilize” the “foundation” of our country, which is “our borders, our language, and our culture.”

This phrasing mirrors long time conservative radio host Michael Savage, host of The Savage Nation, which at one point was the second most listened-to radio talk show in the country with an audience of over 20 million listeners on 400 stations. He wrote in 2003 “The Savage Nation: Saving America from the Liberal Assault on Our Borders, Language and Culture,” which defends white males and “conservative nationalism.”

The American Freedom Party, a white nationalism group, also has as its goal “defending our borders, preserving our language, and promoting our culture,” according to Vice.

Philadelphia and Atlanta

While ICE has been the target of Kirk’s support, he has accused the mayor of Philadelphia and his “sanctuary city” polices of having played a role in an undocumented immigrant raping a young girl.

Most recently on Sept. 10, 2018 he tried to link the city of Atlanta’s decision on ICE to child sex trafficking:

Kirk’s logic seems to be that because ICE “goes after” human traffickers and Atlanta is the №1 place for that horrible evil, then the mayor’s move is akin to helping the traffickers. The two premises are true, but the conclusion is unsound.

According to, “In fiscal year 2016, HSI (a part of Homeland Security that specializes in this sort of thing) initiated 1,029 investigations with a nexus to human trafficking and recorded 1,952 arrests, 1,176 indictments, and 631 convictions; 435 victims were identified and assisted. ICE continues to make human trafficking cases a top investigative priority, bringing traffickers to justice and connecting victims to services to help them restore their lives.”

And yes, Atlanta is №1 in that arena.

But does the city’s new policy support trafficking?

Atlanta and ICE

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued two executive orders regarding ICE. She stopped Atlanta from accepting new ICE detainees and ordered the transfer of “all remaining U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees out of the city jail.”

The mayor said she did not want the city jail complicit in any family separations mandated by the Trump administration’s new “zero tolerance” policy at the US-Mexican border.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, as of this past week, “there were just five ICE detainees in the Atlanta City Detention Center as of Wednesday (9/5), down from 205 in June. The number has fallen as ICE has released them, deported others and transported some to its other detention centers in Folkston, Lumpkin and Ocilla.” Those five are now removed, too.

The AJC noted Atlanta made about $7.5 million through this arrangement for this fiscal year, as of June, more than a fifth of the jail’s annual $33 million budget.

More to the point of this story, city officials added the Atlanta jail will continue to hold detainees for other federal agencies.

The implication in Kirk’s tweet is that ICE would be arresting child sex traffickers in Atlanta and have no place to hold them because the city doesn’t want ICE detainees. Under that implication, they would be released.

That doesn’t stand up to reason.

It’s clear that ICE is interested in high-profile criminals and it would go against ICE’s goal to “free” any such people, even as they await deportation.

There also has been a jump in arrests of what are labeled non-criminal immigrants (in other words, immigrants whose only crime is illegal entry into the US). And the Trump administration has decried the so-called “catch and release” policy of the Obama administration. To release people would go against both trends.

Some more context: Atlanta and more broadly Georgia was dubbed in February 2018 as one of the toughest places for undocumented immigrants in the county, primarily because of the strong partnership between local law enforcement and ICE.

According to NPR, four “local sheriffs notify ICE about undocumented immigrants in their custody.” And one of them, Gwinnett County, is the “most productive” in doing so “by far.” According to ICE, officers in Gwinnett flagged more than 5,000 immigrants for the agency last year — more than one-fifth of all such encounters nationwide.

The Atlanta situation is different than the Philadelphia one Kirk tweeted about. Atlanta is not releasing detainees wanted by ICE for deportation. It is only saying it will no longer accept detainees from ICE. Also of course a federal judge ruled Philadelphia acts reasonably when it won’t hold undocumented immigrants without a federal warrant.

In that same vein, in 2017 two Georgia counties — Dekalb and Clayton — maintained that a warrant is needed to detain for ICE. The Dekalb sheriff “pointed to federal court rulings that say jailing people based on ICE detainers can violate their constitutional rights,” according to the AJC.

And of course the ICE debate is part of the larger debate over “sanctuary cities.” President Trump has said falsely such cities “breed crime.” The Washington Post gave many of Trump’s claims about specific cases of such crime four Pinocchios.

In the end, Kirk’s attempt to tie one of the worst evils to the city of Atlanta because of its ICE policy is without foundation.