Former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley on Sunday condemned prominent Democrats for staying mum after protesters demonstrating outside a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility last week pulled down the American flag and flew the flag of Mexico in its place.
Crews in Aurora, Colorado, restored the American flag Friday evening. The protesters also removed a "Blue Lives Matter" flag, honoring law enforcement, spray-painted it with the words "Abolish ICE," then raised the flag upside-down, on a pole next to the Mexican flag, local media reported.
"There are no words for why the Democrats are staying silent on this," Haley wrote. "If this is your way to winning an election, fire your strategist. This is disgusting. Love your country. And if you don’t like what is happening then tell the members of Congress to get to work and fix it."
Fox News' Leland Vittert asked former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a 2020 White House contender, on Sunday whether the protesters should be condemned, but Hickenlooper, a Democrat, largely dodged the issue.
"Well, I certainly respect the American flag, and my whole life I've been fighting to make this country -- and to make sure this country welcomes everybody, and that this flag represents everyone," Hickenlooper responded on "America's News HQ."
"You know I'm old enough, I remember when people were burning the flag in protest of the Vietnam War," he continued. "The amazing thing about this country is we're really one of the few places on Earth where that level of freedom of speech is still protected. "I might not approve of it, but I think that freedom is something that we as Americans should recognize and say, hey, that's part of our core freedom."
Vittert pressed: "Are you willing to say that doing that, and ripping down the American flag over a faciltiy and running up the Mexican flag, is wrong, doesn't send the right message, isn't going to unite us, which you say is so important?"
"I think there are better ways to unite us," Hickenlooper said, prompting Vittert to laugh. "There's no question about that."
On Saturday, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said "every" Democrat in the 2020 presidential race "should be asked" about the situation.
Cruz suggested that Democrats would want to grandstand and "virtue signal" on the issue, but implied they would be fearful of the reaction from moderate voters.
The Colorado protest, part of a network of #LightsForLiberty events, also dubbed the “March to Close Concentration Camps,” called for detention centers at the U.S.-Mexico border to be closed and for all immigrants being held in those locations to be granted entry to the U.S., according to the event’s Facebook page.
The developments have come amid a fevered national debate on illegal immigration policy, as a growing humanitarian crisis at the border has continued to unfold. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and other top Democrats in the 2020 White House race have pushed to decriminalize border crossings and avoid deporting illegal immigrants already in the U.S. -- prompting even some progressives to voice concerns.
"I have previously criticized Republicans who accused liberals of wanting 'open borders,'" wrote Kevin Drum, a blogger at the left-wing Mother Jones. "President Trump tweets about this endlessly. But I have to admit that it’s hard to see much daylight between Warren’s plan and de facto open borders."
"Are Democrats now the party of open borders?" Drum asked in the article posted to Mother Jones this past Friday.
Meantime, police in Washington state said an armed man was shot and killed early Saturday while trying to attack a local ICE detention center. The Seattle Times reported that the unidentified man appeared outside of the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma with a rifle and threw incendiary devices at both the facility and nearby propane tanks, at one point setting a vehicle on fire.
Officers responded to the apparent domestic terrorism incident around 4 a.m. and called out to the man before shots were fired.
In an official statement posted on Facebook, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, began by faulting Trump's immigration policies before he broadly condemned violence.
“Along with many Americans, I object with every fiber of my being to Donald Trump’s inhumane treatment of immigrants in America,” Inslee wrote. “But if today’s attack was motivated by opposition to the federal government’s actions, it was totally unacceptable. Violence is not acceptable. Our democracy is strong and we are a resilient people. But it is, again, unacceptable to turn to violence… We must be better than that and find non-violent ways of pursuing the better world we want, as many groups are doing.”
ICE, meanwhile, resumed its previously announced plan to apprehend thousands of illegal immigrants who've been given orders to leave the country, targeting people in at least 10 cities. The ICE raids began late Saturday and into the early morning hours on Sunday in "a number of jurisdictions," not just New York City, a senior administration official confirmed to Fox News.
In an exclusive interview on "FOX & friends," Acting ICE Director Matt Albence said while he couldn't speak to anything specifically from an operational perspective, the overarching concern when the agency conducts any sort of enforcement operation is "the safety and security of both our officers that are conducting the operation as well as the public."
"We are doing targeted enforcement actions against specific individuals who have had their day in immigration court and have been ordered to be removed by an immigration judge," Albence told Fox News’ Griff Jenkins. "We are merely executing those lawfully issued judge's orders."
Albence, who said using the term "raid" did everyone "a disservice," added the agency was focusing on people who'd had the opportunity to claim asylum in court and chose not to do so or didn't appear for their first hearings. The acting director added that ICE gave those individuals the opportunity back in February to arrange for an orderly process to be removed from the country, but only 3 percent of people responded to letters that were sent out.
"At this point," Albence said, "we have no choice but to go out and execute those lawfully-issued removal orders from an immigration judge."
Fox News' Danielle Wallace, Leland Vittert, Sam Dorman and Travis Fedschun contributed to this report.