World / Politics

Candidate Elizabeth Warren's immigration plans reflect Democratic party's leftward lean

AP

Elizabeth Warren released a far-reaching immigration agenda on Thursday that envisions a significant leftward shift in U.S. policy, including the remodeling of immigration enforcement agencies “from top to bottom” and new limits on the detention of migrants who enter the country.

Warren’s immigration proposal, released ahead of her appearance alongside three Democratic presidential rivals at a forum hosted by the League of United Latin American Citizens, comes as President Donald Trump’s detention policies continue to spark fierce Democratic pushback and stoke public debate.

With the Democratic Party’s base inflamed by the separation of migrant families and reported dismal conditions in detention centers, Warren is one of several 2020 presidential hopefuls offering a dramatically different strategy that promises to connect with liberal and Latino voters — but also give Trump an opening to attack.

The Massachusetts senator’s plan would not go so far as to “abolish” U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a progressive effort last year that failed to reach critical mass even with Democratic voters and drew harsh criticism from Trump and the GOP. But Warren is calling for a wholesale reorientation at both ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, which enforces immigration laws at the border.

“I’ll reshape CBP and ICE from top to bottom, focusing their efforts on homeland security efforts like screening cargo, identifying counterfeit goods, and preventing smuggling and trafficking,” the candidate wrote in a Medium post outlining her platform.

Warren would also dent the Trump administration’s detention practices by creating “a Justice Department task force to investigate accusations of serious violations” in facilities that house migrants, giving that effort “independent authority to pursue any substantiated criminal allegations.”

Several elements of Warren’s immigration framework are also supported by other Democrats seeking the party’s nomination to take on Trump next year.

If elected, she wrote, she would “issue guidance ensuring that detention is only used where it is actually necessary because an individual poses a flight or safety risk.” New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker’s immigration plan, released last week, was billed by his campaign as a near-outright end to immigration detention.

Warren also vowed to shift federal immigration courts out of the Justice Department’s purview, which is part of former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s plan. She aligned with multiple other Democratic presidential contenders — including Sens. Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris — in supporting an end to the prosecution of border crossings as criminal offenses, rather than civil.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who did not join Sanders and Harris in raising his hand when asked about decriminalizing border crossings during last month’s Democratic presidential debate, reiterated to CNN recently that he does not agree with such a shift in immigration policy. Warren is addressing LULAC at Thursday’s Democratic presidential forum in Milwaukee alongside Sanders, O’Rourke and former Housing Secretary Julian Castro.

Further illustrating immigration’s flammability as an issue in the party, Senate Democrats introduced legislation Thursday halting most separations of detained migrant families and improving care requirements for families and children being held.

The measure was unveiled as Democratic congressional leaders have come under fire from liberals for helping push a $4.6 billion border bill through Congress last month that progressives said lacked sufficient curbs on how the Trump administration treats detained migrants.

“Leader McConnell is to blame,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “We got as much as we could, given his blocking the rest of it, and we’re going to keep fighting for it.”

The bill is similar to measures introduced in the Democratic-run House but seems likely to go nowhere in the GOP-controlled Senate.