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Calls growing to abolish US immigration agency over 'abuses'

Activists march and rally against the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in New York, on June 29, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

An emerging coalition of politicians, activists and pro-immigrant protesters are calling for the abolition of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) over border abuses.

They have deployed posters and slogans in their calls for the dismantling of the ICE, which has treated would-be immigrants cruelly and unfairly.

"We will continue calling on Congress to de-finance the forces of deportation," Maria Bilbao, a Florida organizer for the pro-immigrant group United We Dream, told AFP on Friday, referring to ICE.

"Now is the time to stop and take to the streets to fight for an end to these abuses."

The Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy towards illegal immigration has led to family separations at the US border with Mexico.

Broadcast pictures of young children held in enclosures behind chain-link fences have triggered angry protests across the US and elsewhere, with larger demonstrations expected on Saturday.

"Occupy ICE" camps have also been set up in several US states.

Protesters hold signs as they block Sansome Street during a demonstration outside of the San Francisco office of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on June 19, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by AFP)

Among those who called for the abolition of the ICE was New York gubernatorial candidate and actress Cynthia Nixon.

"I think we need to abolish ICE. That seems really clear," the Democratic candidate told ABC television's "The View" last week.

"They have strayed so far from the interests of the American people and the interests of humanity."

In addition, US lawmakers are making the same demand, along with human rights organizations, who say that ICE is a relatively recent creation.

The office was established only 15 years ago in order to help "protect national security and strengthen public safety," in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks, according to the agency's website.

However, Hemanth Gundavaram, co-director of the Immigrant Justice Clinic at Northeastern University in Boston, said the agency has been diverted from its stated mission, and instead has been used as a tool by President Donald Trump to implement his "racist and xenophobic" immigration policy.

Facing overwhelming bipartisan backlash, the US president signed an executive order last Wednesday to halt the separations.

The Republican president has vowed to crack down on immigration but has failed to get his complete agenda through so far.

More than 2,000 separated children are currently in the US government's custody, according to the Department of Homeland Security, which claims that it is aware of their locations and is making an effort to reunite them with their families.

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