ATLANTA: Several prominent Democrats who are mulling a bid for the White House in 2020 have sought to bolster their progressive credentials by calling for major changes to immigration enforcement, with some pressing for the outright abolition of the federal government’s chief immigration enforcement agency. President Donald Trump responded on Twitter Saturday that it will “never happen!”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, has “become a deportation force,” telling CNN late Thursday “you should get rid of it, start over, reimagine it and build something that actually works.”

Her comments follow similar sentiments expressed by Sen. Kamala Harris of California over the past week. In interviews with multiple outlets, she has said the government “maybe” or “probably” should “start from scratch” on an immigration enforcement agency.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who sought the Democratic nomination in 2016 and is mulling another run, has stopped short of his colleagues’ calls to dismantle ICE. But he has also been quick to note his vote opposing the 2002 law that paved the way for ICE to replace the old Immigration and Naturalization Service following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Trump tweeted Saturday morning from New Jersey that Democrats “are making a strong push to abolish ICE, one of the smartest, toughest and most spirited law enforcement groups of men and women that I have ever seen.” He noted the agency’s work to counter MS-13 gang members.

He urged ICE agents to “not worry or lose your spirit,” adding: “The radical left Dems want you out. Next it will be all police. Zero chance, It will never happen!”

Housed within the Department of Homeland Security, ICE is in charge of executing hundreds of federal immigration statutes. The debate over the agency’s future follows the widespread outcry in recent weeks after the Trump administration separated more than 2,000 migrant children from their parents. Marches took place across the country Saturday to protest the policy, which Trump later reversed.

The Democratic calls to scrap the agency underscore the balancing act the party is facing on immigration issues. Such rhetoric could prove unhelpful to the 10 Democratic senators seeking re-election this fall in states Trump carried in 2016, where conservative views on immigration prevail.

But calling for an end to ICE could be a winner for Democrats seeking to rally the party’s base in the 2020 presidential primaries.

Trump seems to relish the prospect of Democrats making the abolishment of ICE a campaign issue. “Well I hope they keep thinking about it. Because they’re going to get beaten so badly,” he said in an interview with Fox News Channel’s Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo, according to an excerpt released Saturday. He added: “Get rid of ICE, you’re going to have a country that you’re going to be afraid to walk out of your house. I love that issue if they’re going to actually do that.”

Many anti-Trump activists, who are driving the Twitter hashtag #abolish­ICE, have celebrated the moves by Gillibrand and others. But not all immigrant advocacy groups take the same view.

Cristobal Alex, president of the Latino Victory Project, a political action group that backs pro-immigration candidates, rejected ICE as a “litmus test.” But he said it’s “heartening” that immigration in general “is at the forefront of the conversation ahead of 2020.”

Alex said the focus of potential candidates should be on “stopping the long-standing culture of corruption” in U.S. immigration policy and “the appalling practices” of the administration, not on a move that by itself “amounts to rebranding.”

Indeed, the would-be candidates haven’t yet detailed what they propose in ICE’s place.