Booker Vows to ‘Virtually Eliminate Immigration Detention,’ Expand Asylum Program

Sen. Cory Booker speaks during the first Democratic presidential debate in Miami, Fla., June 26, 2019. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Senator Cory Booker released an immigration policy proposal on Tuesday that would “virtually eliminate” the detention of migrants.

Using executive authority, Booker would mandate that detention is used “as a last resort” and all remaining detention facilities would be required to meet the civil detention standards outlined by the American Bar Association.

The plan would “expand pathways for refugees and those seeking asylum” by reducing the standards around asylum application and ensure permanent protections for “Dreamers,” or migrants brought to the country illegally as children.

“As president, Cory will make sure that our immigration system treats immigrants with dignity because when people cross borders, they bring their human rights with them,” the plan reads.

Booker’s proposal stops short of completely decriminalizing illegal border crossings — a proposition he and every other candidate, save for Beto O’Rourke and Senator Michael Bennett of Colorado, endorsed during the debate — and would instead order U.S. attorneys to “deprioritize” the prosecution of those caught crossing the border illegally.

“Cory would reverse President Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy, end Operation Streamline, and direct U.S. attorneys to deprioritize improper entry prosecutions across the U.S., unless an individual poses a public safety risk,” the plan states.

In addition to relaxing enforcement and asylum standards, Booker would work appoint a special State Department envoy to oversee the provision of substantial aid to the Central American countries that are currently contributing the majority of migrants to the U.S.

“Use the full power of our diplomatic tools. From cutting successful international aid programs, to failing to support a joint United Nations-Guatemala anti-corruption commission, to allowing crucial diplomatic posts to remain vacant, President Trump’s approach to diplomacy has only contributed to growing crises around the world,” the plan reads. “Cory would use U.S. diplomacy to lead struggling nations toward reforms and investments that address the root causes of the migration crisis.”

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