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Trump on Democrats calling to abolish ICE: "I love that issue"

President Trump said he hopes that Democrats who are calling to abolish U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) "keep thinking about it."

"Because they're going to get beaten so badly," he said.

Mr. Trump made the comments to Fox News' Maria Bartiromo in an interview that will air on Fox News Channel's "Sunday Morning Features" with Maria Bartiromo at 10 a.m. 

"You know ICE, these are the guys that go in and take MS-13, and they take them out," Mr. Trump said. "Because they're much tougher than MS-13, like by a factor of 10. And these are the ones – you get rid of ICE you're going to have a country that you're going to be afraid to walk out of your house. I love that issue if they're going to actually do that."   

Mr. Trump also tweeted Saturday morning from New Jersey that the elimination of ICE will "never happen."

Sens. Kristen Gillibrand of New York and Kamala Harris of California have suggested the agency responsible for enforcing immigration laws be eliminated.  

On CNN Thursday, Gillibrand said ICE has "become a deportation force" and said, "you should get rid of it, start over, reimagine it and build something that actually works." Harris said on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday that the nation's immigration enforcement should "start from scratch" by eliminating ICE.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old former bartender who suddenly rose to prominence after defeating Rep. Joe Crowley in a New York Democratic congressional primary last week, started the calls to abolish ICE.

Democrats who have suggested abolishing the agency have yet to propose what agency or strategy might replace it. 

The president's approach to immigration has come under renewed scrutiny since the revelation that the administration's "zero-tolerance" policy involved the separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border. Mr. Trump signed an executive order to end those separations, but many children still remain apart from their parents. The Trump administration has asked a federal judge to allow the government to detain families together for longer than the current 20-day legal limit. 

A Republican push for a comprehensive immigration bill that would have, among other things, addressed the family separation issue failed on Wednesday, with more than 100 Republicans voting against the measure. 

Mr. Trump has tweeted that Republicans are "wasting their time on immigration" and should wait until after the midterm elections to find a legislative fix.

  • Kathryn Watson

    Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.