Warren unveils immigration plan, chastises Trump for 'policy of cruelty'

Warren unveils immigration plan, chastises Trump for 'policy of cruelty'
© Aaron Schwartz

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenNew CDC overdose estimates are nothing to celebrate 2020 Democrats react to 'send her back' chants at Trump rally Democratic Houston councilwoman announces Senate bid MORE (D-Mass.) unveiled on Thursday her plan to revamp the immigration system, just ahead of addressing the annual convention of the country's oldest Latino civil rights organization.

Through a post on Medium, Warren laid out a plan that would transform the country's immigration system, including calling for decriminalizing border crossings, reforming Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and banning private immigration detention centers.

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The 2020 presidential candidate also vowed to prosecute any violation of immigrant rights committed under the Trump administration, while denouncing the president's policies on immigration.

"We must address the humanitarian mess at the border and reverse this president’s discriminatory policies," wrote Warren. "But that won’t be nearly enough to fix our immigration system."

"We need expanded legal immigration that will grow our economy, reunite families, and meet our labor market demands. We need real reform that provides cost-effective security at our borders, addresses the root causes of migration, and provides a path to status and citizenship so that our neighbors don’t have to live in fear," she added.

Her first public appearance after publishing her immigration proposal will be addressing the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) annual convention in Milwaukee.

In her post, Warren chastised President TrumpDonald John TrumpAmash responds to 'Send her back' chants at Trump rally: 'This is how history's worst episodes begin' McConnell: Trump 'on to something' with attacks on Dem congresswomen Trump blasts 'corrupt' Puerto Rico's leaders amid political crisis MORE for using the immigration system to "[advance] a policy of cruelty and division that demonizes immigrants," while warning the system itself is flawed.

"While Trump may have taken the system to its most punitive extreme, his racist policies build on a broken immigration system and an enforcement infrastructure already primed for abuse," wrote Warren.

Warren, widely perceived as one of the top Democratic contenders after a strong showing in the first round of debates, has based her campaign on specific policy proposals laying out her plans of action on a wide range of issues.

In her post, Warren called for the repeal of Section 1325, a 1929 law that makes it a criminal offense to enter the United States without government authorization.

That statute, the basis for the Trump administration's zero-tolerance policy, gained attention in the first Democratic debates in June, as presidential hopeful Julián Castro made its repeal a pillar of his own immigration proposal.

"Entering the country without authorization has always been a violation of civil immigration law, but thanks to a former segregationist Senator, it’s also a criminal violation," wrote Warren.

Warren proposed the repeal of Section 1325 as part of what she calls "eliminating abusive enforcement," that would release law enforcement assets to pursue dangerous criminals rather than people who've only skirted immigration law.

According to the American Immigration Council, the federal government has spent $324 billion since 2003 on immigration enforcement.

"This obsessive focus ties up federal prosecutors and overwhelms federal courts. It’s costly and unnecessary. And under Trump, it has become increasingly abusive," wrote Warren.

Warren also proposed structural changes to the relationship between non-immigration law enforcement agencies and federal immigration authorities, including permanently shutting down the 287(g) program, which allows for state and local police to perform immigration enforcement duties.

And she called for reform of ICE and CBP, the country's immigration enforcement agencies, including an end to "warrantless arrests or stops deep in the interior of our country."

Warren also warned she plans to prosecute "abuse perpetrated during the Trump Era."

"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," wrote Warren.

Under Warren's plan, private immigration detention would be banned, and immigration detention in general would be severely curtailed.

"As President, I’ll issue guidance ensuring that detention is only used where it is actually necessary because an individual poses a flight or safety risk," wrote Warren.

And Warren proposed overhauling immigration courts, which are currently under the purview of the Department of Justice (DOJ), to become Article I courts.

Article I courts are tribunals created by federal law under the authority of Congress — as established by Article I of the Constitution — rather than directly by the Constitution's Article III, which established the judicial branch.

Many immigration judges and lawyers have called for immigration courts to be extracted from DOJ to help guarantee due process in immigration proceedings.

Warren picked up another long-standing request of immigration judges — to regain control of their own docket, as centralized control of dockets has forced many judges to speed through even the most complicated cases.

Warren's plan also calls for expansions to immigration itself, and simplification of the path to legal status or citizenship for foreign nationals, prioritizing those already in the country.

"We should put American workers first by ensuring that workers already here get the first opportunity to fill any available positions," she wrote.

Warren would welcome 125,000 refugees in the first year of her term, ramping up to 175,000 by the last year.

She also proposed to end the Trump administration's Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), whereby Central American asylum seekers are forced to wait out their U.S. immigration court proceedings in Mexico, and the metering program, which limits the number of people who can apply for asylum legally at U.S. ports of entry.

As part of an expansion of the legal immigration system, Warren would simplify the system, expand programs like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and limit disqualifying infractions for immigrant status applicants.

"Citizens with minor, non-violent criminal records should not be permanently excluded from being a part of American society — and immigrants shouldn’t be, either," she wrote.

Warren also proposed expanding aid to Central America to the tune of at least $1.5 billion a year.

Immigration has become an intractable issue for Congress, with the last three administrations unable to enact their proposals, even under united control of both houses of Congress.

Warren wrote that she would "work with Congress to pass broad-reaching reform, but I’m also prepared to move forward with executive action if Congress refuses to act."

Thursday's post on immigration builds on her June proposal to end for-profit detention centers both for criminal and immigration detention.