Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wiped away a tear Thursday during a press conference held by a liberal group to protest the continuing flow of taxpayer dollars to Immigration and Custons Enforcement.
The 29-year-old New York lawmayer, who self-identifies as a democratic socialist, said at a MoveOn.org event that shutting down ICE is 'one of the more urgent moral issues and crises that we have in America right now.'
And she claimed that despite President Donald Trump's words to the contrary in Tuesday's State of the Union address, he 'does not like any form of immigration.'
She cited the case of seven-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin, who died in December after her father brought her and 160 other illegal immigrants across the southern U.S. border into New Mexico.
ICE officers apprehended the group, but lacked medical support personnel in the remote border region. Severely dehydrated, Caal died after a 90-minute bus trip to a border station and a life flight to El Paso, Texas.
Ocasio-Cortez stepped away from a bank of microphones and listened to immigration activists tell their stories.
Fellow congresswoman Ilhan Omar, one of the first two Muslims elected to Congress, quoted Somali poet Warsan Shire in explaining why migrants trek 2,500 miles from Central America to the United States.
'No one leaves for the mouth of the shark, unless the mouth of the shark is safer than home,' Omar recited.
Ocasio-Cortez wept. So did Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the other Muslim in the House of Representatives.
The young New York upstart's celebrity has so far outpaced her authority to move legislation or confront Republican opponents.
But she vowed Thursday to defund ICE completely and claimed Latinos should be exempt from criminal proceedings and immigration laws because they are descended from Mesoamerican cultures that preceded the United States.
'We are standing on native land,' she claimed, speaking just outside the U.S. Capitol. 'And Latino people are descendants of native people. And we cannot be told, and criminalized, simply because for our identity or our status. Period.'
'We're here to say that an agency like ICE, which repeatedly and systematically violates human rights, does not deserve a dime. They do not deserve a dime,' she said.
'Until they can prove that they are honoring human rights, until they can make a good-faith effort to expand and embrace immigrants, the immigrants in this nation that have always been a part, and have always been a core element of American democracy, until they can prove good faith to an American ideal they do not deserve any resources for their radical agenda.'
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel tweeted a slap at Ocasio-Cortez after Thursday's presser.
'Last year, ICE removed a Nazi from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s district. Her response: Abolish ICE,' she wrote. 'This week, MS-13 murdered someone in her district. Her response: Abolish ICE.'
'AOC's calls aren't just endangering her community, they're endangering the entire country.'
Ocasio-Cortez has become the darling of the slice of America's political left that embraced Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2016 election because the favored Democrat, fellow New Yorker Hillary Clinton, was seen as insufficiently liberal.
On Thursday she potrayed herself as unwilling to negotiate, either with Republicans or with centrist Democrats.
'I will not make a political compromise so that just a few kids less die,' she said. 'I will not make a compromise so that we deport – unjustly deport – just a few less. No. We will stop these practices altogether and we will not stop until they are ceased and fully held accountable.'
'Thank you. I'm mad, y'all,' a smiling Ocasio-Cortez said when applause erupted among a small crowd assembled to provide a video backdrop.
'I'm mad. I am mad.'
Ocasio-Cortez is also furious with President Donald Trump, who framed illegal immigration as 'a moral issue' during Tuesday's State of the Union address.
Trump has long sought to draw a bright line of separation between illicit border-crossers – especially those who traffick in drugs and human cargo – and immigrants who earn legal status in the U.S. through legal channels.
'Legal immigrants enrich our nation and strengthen our society in countless ways,' he said Tuesday. 'I want people to come into our country, but they have to come in legally.'
Ocasio-Cortez called that 'a lie' on Thursday, saying that 'the president does not like any form of immigration.'
She cited his attacks on the 'diversity visa lotery' and chain migration, and his terminaton of benefits to people who are avoiding deportation because of President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood arrivals program.
'He's taking away the documented status of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of Americans,' she claimed, referring to people in the U.S. without papers as 'Americans.'