Abolish ICE



February 2017


Far-left Immigration Advocacy Group


Sean McElwee

Arielle Swernoff

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Abolish ICE (or AbolishICE) is a far-left advocacy group co-founded in 2017 by Data for Progress founder Sean McElwee and LaunchProgress executive director Arielle Swernoff. The group advocates for a de facto open-borders immigration policy and demands the termination of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).


Abolish ICE is the organization leading the campaign to defund and eliminate Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal law enforcement agency that polices the interior of the country from illegal immigrants. The agency is part of the Department of Homeland Security. Far-left activists Sean McElwee and Arielle Swernoff established an website in February 2017. 1

Several Democratic members of Congress have supported the idea. The organization’s website says that supporters are working to “[mainstream] the idea in political discourse, pushing current elected officials and candidates to adopt abolishing ICE as part of their platform.” 2

Abolish ICE is made up of several partner organizations. Make the Road Action, which operates in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Nevada, focuses on immigration and pushing affordable housing and education issues. The Detention Watch Network is a national group that says it envisions, “A world without immigration detention.” United We Dream Action advocates local elected officials across the country to “resist Trump’s political hit men,” or in other words create “sanctuary” jurisdictions in which local law enforcement would not cooperate with federal immigration authorities. 3


Abolish ICE was co-founded by Arielle Swernoff, an activist who works on environmentalist and pro-abortion issues, and Sean McElwee, the co-founder of Data for Progress and a contributing writer at The Nation magazine. Both are also senior advisers. 4 

Swernoff, a former staffer for New York City Councilman Jimmy Van Bremer (D-Queens), is the executive director of the liberal political action committee LaunchProgress. 5

McElwee, a former staffer for the far-left think tank Demos, has written for the New York Times, The Atlantic, Vox, and the Washington Post. Politico ranked him in its top 50 influencers of 2018 “for birthing ‘Abolish ICE.” Self-identified socialist U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), said, “We need change agents like Sean McElwee.” 6

McElwee first tweeted about abolishing ICE on February 23, 2017. 7 He popularized the hashtag #AbolishICE, retweeting any news report that refected negatively on the agency. 8

McElwee helped further galvanize the movement in a March 2018 piece in The Nation, writing, The call to abolish ICE is, above all, a demand that white supremacy can no longer be the center of the immigration debate.” His piece continues, “It’s time to rein in the greatest threat we face: an unaccountable strike force executing a campaign of ethnic cleansing.” 9

Rabyaah Althaibani, a Yemeni-American activist, is also a senior adviser. Althaibani was a key organizer of the 2017 New York “bodega strike” protest against President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. She was also the communications director the El-Yateem State Senate campaign, where she organized first-time Arab-American voters. 10 She is also the co-founder of Arab Women’s Voice. 11

Juhem Navarro-Rivera, the political research director and managing partner at Socioanalitica Research, is also a senior adviser with Abolish ICE. He is also a senior fellow at the Institute for Humanist Studies. 12

Greg Greene, who worked in digital outreach for the Democratic National Committee, is also a senior adviser. Greene was the first digital strategist at the liberal political consultancy Blue State Digital. 13

Antonio Alarcon, a member of Make the Road Action, is also a senior adviser to Abolish ICE. He has been a youth organizer for Make the Road New York, a left-wing community organizing group in New York City. He advocated for the passage of the New York Dream Act. He starred in the film Indivisible, opposing the Trump administration’s policy of family separation. 14


  1. Ludwig, Hayden. “Meet the Socialists Behind the Abolish ICE Campaign.” Organization Trends. August 16, 2019. Accessed October 12, 2019.
  2. Who Are We? Accessed October 12, 2019.
  3. Organizations. Accessed October 12, 2019.
  4. Senior Advisors. Accessed October 12, 2019.
  5. Ludwig, Hayden. “Meet the Socialists Behind the Abolish ICE Campaign.” Organization Trends. August 16, 2019. Accessed October 12, 2019.
  6. Ludwig, Hayden. “Meet the Socialists Behind the Abolish ICE Campaign.” Organization Trends. August 16, 2019. Accessed October 12, 2019.
  7. Sean McElwee. Twitter. Accessed October 12, 209.
  8. Reiman, Eliza. “How a Left-Wing Rallying Cry Burst Into the Mainstream as Trump Implements His Most Extreme Immigration Policy Yet.” Business Insider. June 30, 2018. Accessed October 12, 2019.
  9. McElwee, Sean. “It’s Time to Abolish ICE.” The Nation. March 9, 2018. Accessed October 12, 2019.
  10. Senior Advisors. Accessed October 12, 2019.
  11. Rabyaah Althaibani. Twitter.
  12. Senior Advisors. Accessed October 12, 2019.
  13. Senior Advisors. Accessed October 12, 2019.
  14. Senior Advisors. Accessed October 12, 2019.

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Sean McElwee
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