Elizabeth Warren is putting abusive immigration officers on notice: If she becomes president, they’ll face investigation.
The Massachusetts senator is proposing a new Justice Department task force to investigate alleged abuses by government officials against immigrants and refugees, as part of a sweeping immigration reform plan released Thursday ahead of her 2020-campaign appearance at the League of United Latin American Citizens’ annual conference in Milwaukee.
“President Trump and his Administration are comfortable looking the other way while criminal abuses of immigrants pile up. When I am President, I will not,” the 70-year-old Democrat says in a Medium post outlining the proposals. “I’ll designate a Justice Department task force to investigate accusations of serious violations — including medical neglect and physical and sexual assaults of detained immigrants — and give it independent authority to pursue any substantiated criminal allegations. Let there be no ambiguity on this: If you are violating the basic rights of immigrants, now or in the future, a Warren Administration will hold you accountable.”
That warning comes following widespread reports of mistreatment and abuse of asylum-seekers and other undocumented immigrants at detention centers, from a pattern of sexual assault by guards to failures to provide medical care that have at times led to detainee deaths. The Department of Homeland Security’s own Inspector General last week warned that “dangerous overcrowding” at Border Patrol facilities was creating a health and safety risk for those migrants.
Warren makes it clear that those breaking the law and abusing or neglecting people in their care will be held accountable in her administration — a signal that they shouldn’t feel safe even as the Trump administration turns a blind eye to this alleged pattern of abuse.
The promise is just one in a sweeping reform package that lays out an immigration system much more progressive than what we have with Trump’s administration and even under President Obama, and it's the latest of Warren's many detailed plans.
Warren also reiterates her support to decriminalize unauthorized border crossings, a move that could have huge ramifications for border policing and immigration. Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro was the first presidential candidate to make the proposal, and Warren previously said she’d support it, putting her on one side of an internal divide in the Democratic Party over whether to make the change.
Some other highlights from the plan:
- Immigrants applying for asylum would be released rather than detained, a return to the policy of the Obama Administration.
- Ending the use of private detention centers and expedited removal for immigrants.
- Increasing the cap on refugees to 125,000 in her first year in office and at least 175,000 a year by the end of her first term, up from 22,000 last year.
- Streamlining and speeding up the process for naturalization and for family reunification visas.
- Ending the requirement that undocumented immigrants return to their home countries for three to ten years before they can apply to return.
- Immigrants with minor misdemeanors should be allowed to apply for citizenship — not just those who’ve crossed the border illegally but those who committed minor offenses while living in the U.S.
- Customs and Border Control and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents would be held to the same “due process” rules that other policing agencies already must abide by — meaning no random search-and-seizure
- $1.5 billion annually to Central America to try to alleviate the root causes of the recent surge in asylum-seekers.
- Barring ICE and CBP from targeting “sensitive location” like schools, courthouses and hospitals in their search for undocumented immigrants.
- New guidance to end criminal prosecutions for simple administrative immigration violations and return to previous administrations’ policy of using ICE and CBP resources to target serious criminals for deportation rather than widespread and more arbitrary deportation raids.
- Reinstating and expanding DACA.
READ Warren’s full immigration plan here:
Cover: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks at the 2019 Essence Festival at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on Saturday, July 6, 2019, in New Orleans. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)