LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is showing support for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency a day after it failed to meet a deadline to reunite families sparking protests in Louisville.
McConnell said he felt he needed to speak with those who work at the Louisville field office Friday.
He said ICE employees have been facing a lot of criticism and he wanted to thank them for the job they do fighting crime, noting that more than 125,000 arrests for crimes committed by people illegally immigrating to the country have occurred.
The ICE building in downtown Louisville has become a rallying point for those with clashing points of view.
Dueling protests have happened nearby and Occupy ICE encampments lined the grounds outside the building just days ago.
It's unrest surrounding the local branch of the federal agency McConnell said he felt the need to address.
"I thought, somebody ought to d rop by and see these folks," McConnell said. "They've been under a pretty big round of criticism here in Louisville.
McConnell, though, added that employees seem to be largely unaffected by it.
That a day after nine were arrested for an anti-ICE demonstration at a nearby immigration court, bringing that criticism of what ICE enforces and represents to a level not yet seen in the city.
"We're here to dismantle something far bigger than something in our city, in our state," Sassa Rivera, an anti-ICE protester, said. "It's throughout our country. It's a human rights issue."
As for the federal deadline to reunite families at the border that was not met Thursday, McConnell said the Secretary of Homeland Security would be better able to address progress, but he's working on related legislation.
"She said yesterday, she thought they were on the way to reunifying all these families," McConnell said. "I'm supporting legislation that would try to deal with the court decision that brought about this situation in the first place."
A situation created in part by the agency McConnell said is necessary, but some in Louisville have voiced strongly should be abolished completely.
McConnell said he was surprised by the number of potential presidential nominees that supporting the Abolish ICE movement—naming Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.