WASHINGTON (AP) — Senator Cory Booker has rolled out a sweeping immigration agenda composed of changes that as president he could make without relying on Congress to act, including a shift away from criminal prosecution of border crossings and a new mandate for immigration jails to meet minimum standards.
Booker’s immigration plan, unveiled Tuesday, is one of the most detailed among Democratic White House hopefuls. His proposal sets a different tone from former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s immigration agenda by focusing entirely on executive orders that a president could pursue without relying on a legislative deal that has proved elusive.
If elected, Booker said he would use his presidential powers to orient the Department of Homeland Security away from raids that target immigrants at schools, churches and courthouses, according to a summary released by the New Jersey senator’s campaign. Booker also vows to end President Trump’s ban on travel to the United States by residents of certain majority-Muslim nations, the Trump administration’s use of quotas in immigration courts and many other policy changes that Trump has used to reshape the nation’s immigration policy.
Booker released his plan the day that activists planned nationwide demonstrations calling for the closure of immigration jails that have subjected immigrant children and parents to unsanitary and unsafe conditions. More than a half-dozen Democratic presidential candidates visited a South Florida detention center during their trips to Miami for last week’s first primary debates, a show of force that helped draw attention to conditions at immigration jails.
Two of the candidates, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Housing Secretary Julián Castro, have called for the rollback of the statute that empowers criminal prosecution of migrants who cross the border. Booker also favors an end to that provision of the law, which would require congressional action, and said on Tuesday that his administration would move federal prosecutors’ focus away from charging immigrants with criminal offenses unless they pose a threat to public safety.
Booker launched his 2020 campaign in February. He is polling in the single digits in the Democratic primary, trailing five or more rivals, but his campaign took heart in a strong performance at last week’s first debates.