Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), one of the 25 major contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, announced plans Tuesday to dramatically reform the nation’s immigration system to “virtually eliminate” detention centers using the president’s executive powers.
The executive order, Booker said, would be signed on the first day of a Booker administration and direct the Department of Homeland Security to require detention facilities for illegal border crossers to meet the civil detention standards set by the American Bar Association, which “call for detention as a last resort” and requires higher standards for facilities that host children.
Booker’s proposal also ends the use of for-profit detention centers and limits the time foreign citizens who are illegally present stay in facilities to promote easier and faster access to legal resources.
“The people held in DHS custody are seeking safety and a better life,” Booker said in a statement releasing the plan. “The Trump Administration’s border detention camps and immigration jails throughout the interior of the country are a stain on our nation’s history as a beacon for hope, freedom, and opportunity for generations the world over.”
The senator from New Jersey and former Newark mayor also said he would move to undo steps taken under the Trump administration to curb immigration, including reinstating protections for “Dreamers,” or younger illegal immigrants, under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and eliminating Trump’s travel bans from several Muslim-majority countries. The order would also stop the construction of a wall across the southern U.S.-Mexican border and promote easier access for refugees and those seeking asylum.
“Our immigration system should reflect our values,” the proposal states. “Separating children from their families, abusive and indefinite detention of immigrants, and shutting the door to desperate refugees does not reflect who we are as Americans.”
The Trump administration no longer separates children from their parents after they break U.S. border laws and most fraudulently claim asylum, a policy begun under the Obama administration.
Booker’s plan largely falls in line with what other candidates have been saying on the issue of immigration that was showcased in the first round of presidential debates held in Miami last week.
At the prime-time event, nearly all of the major candidates criticized Trump’s immigration policies and announced their support for providing taxpayer-sponsored full health care to illegally present foreign citizens and decriminalizing trespassing into the United States. Booker supported both ideas.
Booker’s immigration proposals put forward Tuesday comes as the Democratic lawmaker fails to gain increased traction among voters in vying for the party’s nomination since announcing his candidacy in February. Still, the latest RealClearPolitics polling average places Booker in the top tier of candidates in 7th place among the crowded field of candidates, consistently polling just above 2 percent. Booker’s positive debate performance may also enhance the senator’s chances to lead the Democratic ticket next year, but a decisive shift in the polls remains to be seen.