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As the 'Abolish ICE' movement grows, the White House announces it will 'save ICE'

President Donald Trump is eager for a battle with Democrats over the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Image: *** BESTPIX *** Thousands Across U.S March In Support Of Keeping Immigrant Families Together
People take part during the nationwide "Families Belong Together" march as they walk by the Brooklyn Bridge on June 30, 2018 in New York City.Kena Betancur / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — A day after an anti-ICE protestor scaled the base of the Statue of Liberty on July 4th, the White House is rolling out its own slogan — "SAVE ICE."

With President Donald Trump eager for a battle with Democrats over the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, the White House on Thursday sent out a fact sheet vowing to "SAVE ICE," warning that abolishing it would "erase America's borders and open the floodgates to more crime, drugs, and terrorism."

"Calls to abolish ICE are an insult to these heroic law enforcement officers," the White House document states.

ICE does not patrol the borders — that's the job of a separate agency, Customs and Border Protection. And most "Abolish ICE" advocates, who call it a "deportation force," want the agency's responsibilities transferred to a different part of the federal government, not eliminated entirely.

Trump and the White House clearly think they have identified a political winner on immigration, the president's signature issue, using the fight over ICE to both portray Democrats as extreme and shift the conversation from the family separation crisis at the border, which is still far from resolved.

"I hope they keep thinking about it, because they’re going to get beaten so badly," Trump told Fox News last week of the issue.

"Abolish ICE," which began as an intentionally provocative online slogan, has taken off.

Within the past three weeks, leading Democratic senators have endorsed the effort as more members of Congress join the cause seemingly every day. Recently, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and giant-slayer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who defeated 20-year incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley in a Queens/Bronx primary last month, got on board.

Police talk to a woman who climbed to the base of the Statue of Liberty in New York on July 4, 2018.PIX11 / via AFP - Getty Images

On Wednesday, the movement reached a new height, literally, when a woman climbed up the base of the Statue of Liberty after participating in an "Abolish ICE" protest to call attention to the plight of immigrants at the a monument that has welcomed many generations of them.

Still, many other Democrats are rejecting the slogan, and those in favor of abolishing ICE number fewer than two dozen out of nearly 250 Democrats in Congress, according to a rough tally kept by NBC News.

For instance, Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, a progressive darling who is running for Senate against Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas., has stopped just short of demanding the abolition of ICE — earning hackles from a participant at a recent town hall who said Democrats need to "grow a backbone" on the issue.

"Don't lecture me about the border," O'Rourke shot back, according to the Texas Tribune. "I'm doing everything that I can right now."