Immigration reform? Now Elizabeth Warren has a plan for that, too.
The Massachusetts senator, whose 2020 presidential campaign has become defined by her stockpile of policy proposals, unveiled Thursday a package of ideas to restructure the government’s approach to immigration “to create a rules-based system that is fair, humane, and that reflects our values,” she wrote in a blog post.
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The rollout comes as Warren and other national Democrats have accused the Trump administration in recent weeks of exacerbating a humanitarian crisis along the southern border by failing to provide basic necessities and sanitary conditions for migrants held in detention centers.
“But while Trump may have taken the system to its most punitive extreme,” Warren wrote, “his racist policies build on a broken immigration system and an enforcement infrastructure already primed for abuse.”
What would the plan do?
Warren calls for eliminating criminal penalties for people “entering the country without authorization” but would leave in place civil penalties for illegal border crossings. She also calls for separating law enforcement from immigration enforcement responsibilities, arguing that “combining these functions sows distrust and harms public safety.”
Warren says she will “reshape … from top to bottom” both U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, pledging to “change the culture” at the agencies and begin “focusing their efforts on homeland security efforts like screening cargo, identifying counterfeit goods, and preventing smuggling and trafficking.”
After Donald Trump leaves office, Warren says she will hold his administration accountable for “criminal abuses of immigrants” by designating a Justice Department task force “to investigate accusations of serious violations” at the border.
Warren calls for various restrictions on government-enforced detention and says she would do away with private detention facilities. She vows to eliminate expedited removal proceedings, grant due process rights to people in the country illegally, and work toward “passing legislation establishing Article I judicial review for immigration cases modeled on our federal courts.”
Warren seeks to reverse several tenets of Trump’s immigration agenda, such as the president’s travel restrictions on certain countries, his reduction of the number of refugees admitted to the U.S., and the administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, which requires asylum-seekers to stay on the other side of the border while they await court hearings.
She also proposes various measures aimed at expanding legal immigration, including reinstating and expanding the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for young undocumented people, as well as a “far-reaching legislative fix that provides a fair but achievable path to citizenship” for people who fall under Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure.
How much would it cost?
Warren calls for at least $1.5 billion in annual aid to programs benefiting Central America, among other initiatives. She also promises “robust funding for efforts to counter gangs” and other transnational crime.
How would she pay for it?
It’s not entirely clear, although Warren suggests at least some of her proposals would be cost-saving. She claims “community-based alternatives” to government detention of migrants “are safer, save money, and can be more effective at ensuring compliance.”
How would she get it done?
Warren says she will “work with Congress to pass broad-reaching reform” but that she is “also prepared to move forward with executive action if Congress refuses to act.”
What have other Democrats proposed?
Julián Castro, the former secretary of Housing and Urban Development, was the first 2020 Democrat to release a comprehensive immigration proposal, which calls for splitting ICE in half, establishing a “pathway to full and equal citizenship” for 11 million people in the U.S. illegally and “a 21st century Marshall Plan for Central America.”
Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s plan calls on Congress to create a pathway to citizenship, as well as easing naturalization protocols and increasing visa caps. O’Rourke also proposes increasing the number of court staff, clerks, interpreters and judges in the U.S. asylum system and deploying as many as 2,000 lawyers to the southern border.
California Sen. Kamala Harris’ plan would reinstate and expand the DACA program, offering a path to citizenship for some of the young people known as Dreamers and extending deportation relief to roughly 6 million people.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s plan reverses much of Trump’s immigration agenda, reinstates DACA, allows more refugees to enter the U.S., increases foreign aid to Latin America, and aims to provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and others.
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker has also announced a plan that phases out the use of private detention centers.
Who would it help?
Warren’s plan is aimed at helping Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure holders, Central American countries seeking more foreign aid, immigrants who are eligible to come to the U.S. but restricted by visa caps, and others.
Who opposes it?
Warren would face steep opposition from Republican lawmakers who would likely seek to preserve much of Trump’s immigration agenda after the president leaves office. And some 2020 Democrats, such as O’Rourke, disagree with her push to eliminate criminal penalties for illegal border crossings.