Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said Tuesday that he would issue an executive order on his first day as president that would “virtually eliminate immigration detention” — a cornerstone of President Donald Trump’s controversial efforts to secure America’s borders.
Booker, one of more than two dozen Democrats vying for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination, vowed that once in the White House he would drastically change the current administration’s immigration polices, which he described as needlessly cruel.
“Although there are limits on what we can do to reverse the damage that has already been done to the lives of thousands and to communities across our country, we can put an end to the horror, and turn the page to a new chapter of our history,” he said in a statement.
“Our country must have an immigration system that reflects our values, not one that strips dignity away from people fleeing danger, threats, and violence.”
Booker said he will fully restore the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals protections for young immigrants, also known as “Dreamers,” who entered the country without documentation as minors with their parents.
He would also end the Trump’s ban on immigrants from predominately Muslim countries, and would cancel the administration’s plans to build a border wall along the US-Mexico border.
Opposition to Trump’s immigration policies emerged in the first Democratic candidates debate as a critical — and largely agreed upon — issue for the 19 Democrats and one Independent who appeared last week at a two-night debate for the presidential contenders.
Responding to a question posed by NBC’s Savannah Guthrie, all of the candidates agreed during the debate last Thursday night that undocumented immigrants in the country should receive healthcare.
In response to a question posed by Telemundo reporter Jose Diaz-Balart, all signaled agreement that people who are in the country shouldn’t be deported, if they’ve not committed a crime.
Booker’s proposals didn’t directly address either of those immigration issues, but were apparently designed to build on the shared opposition to Trump’s policies. Among the key features of his immigration policy ideas, Booker proposed:
● Shutting down inhumane facilities and require all facilities to meet high standards, and face new accountability and public transparency requirements.
● Ending contracts with private prison facilities and with county or local prisons.
● Closing unsafe detention conditions and eliminating unnecessary delays for children and families to be released from detention.
● Reversing President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy and direct U.S. attorneys to de-prioritize improper entry prosecutions across the U.S., unless an individual poses a public safety risk.
● Expanding pathways for refugees and those seeking asylum, including ending the “Remain in Mexico” policy and asylum metering, as well as increasing the cap on refugees to a minimum of 110,000.
● Focusing on the root causes of migration by using the full power of U.S. diplomatic tools to address the root causes of migration
Candidates Beto O’Rourke and Julian Castro, both from Texas, have been the most outspoken on immigration of the Democratic hopefuls. Each offered detailed proposals that emphasized fixing — or reversing — various aspects of the current administration’s policies. For the most part, both O’Rourke and Castro have called for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform laws.
But Booker said he wasn’t willing to wait on Congress and that he would move swiftly through executive orders to change the direction of federal immigration policies.
“When kids are being stripped away from their parents and held in cages, I will not wait for Congress to solve this crisis,” Booker said in his statement.
“On day one of my presidency, I will take immediate steps to end this administration’s moral vandalism.”