PHILADELPHIA — Presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) vowed Saturday that if elected, she will give the Justice Department authority to investigate crimes against immigrants.
“On my first day I will empower a commission to investigate crimes by the United States against immigrants,” Warren said at a presidential forum at the annual Netroots conference. “Donald Trump may be willing to look the other way but President Elizabeth Warren will not.”
Her pledge came on the eve of raids threatened by Donald Trump to round up undocumented immigrants on Sunday, and amid a flurry of news reports detailing inhumane conditions in which migrants are being detained.
Warren issued details of her immigration plan in a Medium post on Thursday. She promised that a Justice Department task force would be given the independent authority to investigate, and if necessary pursue criminal allegations against anyone found violating the rights of immigrants, including medical neglect or sexual assault.
In one allegation that came to light this week, a 15-year old girl migrant girl from Honduras said a U.S. border agent put his hands inside her bra, pulled down her underwear, and groped her in front of other officers and immigrants during what was supposed to be a routine pat-down.
“Let there be no ambiguity on this,” Warren wrote. “If you are violating the basic rights of immigrants, now or in the future, a Warren administration will hold you accountable.” Warren also promised to eliminate private detention centers and invest in community-based alternatives.
On Friday, Vice President Mike Pence visited a border facility in McAllen, Texas, where 400 immigrant men were being held in sweltering cages, deprived adequate food and water, and denied access to proper sanitation. Many of the migrants told reporters they’d been at the station for more than 40 days. Pence, however, made a point of blaming Democrats for the conditions.
“Remember for the last six months, Democrats in Congress said it was a manufactured crisis,” he told CNN. “It was all we could do to finally get the Democrats in Congress to agree to give us additional funding to deal with this crisis.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is under fire for a recently discovered Facebook group that showed current and former officers mocking migrant deaths, as well as other racist and sexist content. On Saturday it was revealed that Carla Provost, the current chief of the agency, was also a member of the group, despite initially condemning it. Other high-ranking members of the agency were also believed to be members.
ProPublica, which broke the story about the Facebook group, also reported this week that Border Patrol agents were handing out a commemorative coins which appeared to mock the task of caring for migrant children while reading “KEEP THE CARAVANS COMING”. While not official government-issue, the coins expose the depths of cruelty within the agency toward the people in their custody and care.
Meanwhile, thousands took part in protests across the United States this weekend to protest against the impending raids threatened by President Trump. The targeted immigrants reportedly have been issued court removal orders, but the raids could also sweep up “collateral” migrants who happen to be at the scene.