U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) spoke on the U.S. Senate floor in support of a resolution denouncing calls for the elimination of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

After the family separation controversy at the U.S. southern border, numerous liberal activists called for the elimination of ICE. House Democrats introduced a bill to eliminate the agency, but Speaker of the House Paul Ryan scrapped a vote that was originally allowed intending to force Democrats to go on the record. The U.S House of Representatives instead passed a resolution on Wednesday supporting ICE by a 244-35 vote with 133 Democrats voting present. Eighteen Democrats voted for the resolution while 34 voted against it.

Also on Thursday, Senate Democrats blocked a similar resolution that was introduced by U.S. Senator John Kennedy (R-Louisiana).

Watch video of her speech below:

Read the transcript of her speech as prepared for delivery:

Today, I rise today to voice my support for the brave men and women of America’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Unfortunately, a resolution that would have shown this body’s unanimous support for these courageous individuals was blocked.

While the Border Patrol has the important mission of maintaining security at our borders, ICE agents have the critical mission of enforcing immigration laws inside the United States. These two work hand in hand – our nation cannot have border security without enforcing our laws inside communities and we cannot have secure communities without enforcing our laws at our borders.

But the critical mission of ICE goes far beyond just immigration enforcement, these folks are on the front lines of our homeland security.

Here is just a short list of the types of activities ICE is involved in:

  • Investigating and combatting drug smuggling,
  • Stopping human trafficking,
  • Preventing gang-related crimes, and
  • Working with other law enforcement entities to stop criminal and terrorist networks from operating.

Iowa, along with the rest of the country, has been gripped by an opioid crisis that puts our people and safety at risk.

Additionally, we continue to have a very grave methamphetamine issue that threatens the core of many of our already struggling rural communities. We need ICE to help stop the flow of these drugs into Iowa’s communities- our schools, our workplaces, our children, our families. In 2017 alone, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations seized nearly one million pounds of narcotics.

Abolishing ICE would turn the flow of illegal drugs across the border from a stream, into a monsoon.

I also implore anyone challenging the need for ICE to look at the horrendous toll of human trafficking. Young and innocent women and men, boys and girls, used as human pawns – smuggled across the border with hopes of a better life, only to be sold into sexual slavery, forced into prostitution, or worse. Raped, beaten, subject to sexual diseases, and stripped of all innocence and dignity.

Sadly, human trafficking is a major issue in Iowa. In 2016, for instance, Des Moines was identified as one of the country’s top 100 human trafficking locations.

Human traffickers often exploit our immigration laws to transport their victims – and our ICE agents are the ones that help stop them and stop their activities.

Every day, 24-7, 365 days a year, ICE agents are on the front lines, working to dismantle human trafficking networks and protect the most vulnerable. I urge my colleagues to reconsider their objections, and to support not only the resolution but the officers and personnel who carry out the vital mission of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in order to ensure the safety and security of all Americans.

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