July 24, 2018 / 7:18 PM / 22 days ago

Trump injects immigration issue into 2018 elections debate

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Reuters) - President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he believed that the demands by some Democrats that a U.S. government immigration enforcement agency be shut down will help Republicans in midterm congressional elections in November.

U.S. President Donald Trump gestures as he addresses the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ 119th VFW national convention in Kansas City, Missouri, U.S., July 24, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

In a speech to war veterans in Kansas City, Missouri, Trump defended the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, an arm of the Homeland Security Department that has been responsible for arresting and deporting illegal immigrants.

Some Democrats have called for the abolishment of the agency, arguing that it has overstepped its authority. A new poll by the Pew Research Center found that 44 percent of Americans view the agency favorably, compared to 47 percent who view it unfavorably.

Trump is fighting to help Republicans retain control of the House of Representatives and Senate in Nov. 6 elections likely to be seen as a referendum on his presidency.

“Oh ICE, ICE, thank goodness for ICE,” Trump said.

Trump’s policy of separating illegal immigrant parents from their children added to a fierce national debate on American immigration policies. The outcry prompted Trump to abandon the separation policy.

“The Democrats want to abandon ICE. They want to end ICE,” Trump said. “When you hear some of the things they are proposing you can’t even understand it.”

Trump said the issue will help Republicans in November and beyond, to his own re-election campaign.

“I hope they (Democrats) keep at it because we’re going to have a lot of fun in four months and we’re going to have a lot of fun in 2020,” Trump said.

Trump later attended two political events in Kansas City to help raise money for state Attorney General Josh Hawley, the Republican candidate trying to unseat Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri in the November elections.

Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Will Dunham

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