Ending the Crisis at the Border and in Detention Centers Across the Country

Our immigration system should reflect our values. Separating children from their families, abusive and indefinite detention of immigrants, and shutting the door to desperate refugees does not reflect who we are as Americans. As mayor, Cory made Newark a national leader among cities in protecting the safety and well-being of all of its residents. In the Senate, Cory has fought to end the costly, cruel, and unnecessary mass detention of immigrants and immigrant families by sponsoring the boldest reform package for detention in Congress, the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act, to reform immigration enforcement, and to address the root causes of the current migration crisis.

As president, Cory will make sure that our immigration system treats immigrants with dignity because when people cross borders, they bring their human rights with them. He will fight for a system that recognizes that immigrants make our country stronger and that we need each other to move our country forward. Cory will fight for the passage of legislation in Congress that reforms our immigration system and provides earned citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants living and working with us as our colleagues, neighbors, and friends.

But we can’t wait for Congress to act, which is why, as president, Cory will start on Day One to end the abuses of the Trump Administration and use his executive authority to reform our immigration system by:

  • Treating immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers with dignity
  • Putting forward a new vision for modernizing immigration
  • Addressing the root causes of the migration and refugee crisis 
  • Reaffirming our values by expanding protections for immigrants and rolling back the Trump Administration’s anti-immigrant policies

Treating immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers with dignity

Shut down inhumane facilities and require all facilities to meet the highest standards. Starting on Day One, Cory will direct the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to require detention facilities to meet the civil detention standards of the American Bar Association's Civil Immigration Detention Standards, which “call for detention as a last resort” and, for facilities that host children, to meet the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Facilities would be required to develop plans and meet deadlines for compliance with these requirements or face closure, with current residents transferred to facilities that meet those requirements.

The people held in DHS custody are seeking safety and a better life. The Trump Administration’s border detention camps and immigration jails throughout the interior of the country are a stain on our nation’s history as a beacon for hope, freedom, and opportunity for generations the world over. In recent weeks, the Administration has argued in court that migrant children don’t need safe and sanitary conditions and necessities, and DHS’s own inspector general has cataloged the horrific conditions at facilities.

Cory would also increase accountability and transparency for detention facilities beginning on Day One, including directing DHS to permit access for independent experts and monitors to CBP facilities, improve the inspections process, require random spot checks of detention facilities, and the prompt investigation of and published reports on all deaths of immigrants in its custody.

Virtually eliminate our nation’s reliance on immigration incarceration, including ending the use of for-profit detention facilities. Most people in immigration detention are held in non-federal facilities and approximately 65% are held in detention centers run by for-profit prison corporations. Cory would direct the DHS to phase out its contracting with private prison facilities and county or local prisons over a three year period. Against the advice of the UN High Commissioner on Refugees, the United States has come to rely on incarceration as our primary method of migration management. Under the Trump Administration, detention has increased by more than 40% and 50,000 immigrants sit in jail every day, often in substandard, plainly unacceptable conditions. Today, this system is perpetuated in part by the profit motives of private contractors and local governments. By adopting evidence-based non-profit alternatives to detention and ensuring that detention is used as a last resort, Cory’s goal would be to virtually eliminate immigration detention, with limited exceptions if there is a risk to public safety or flight risk.

End abusive detention conditions and unnecessary delays for children and families. Today, unaccompanied children and immigrant families suffer inhumane conditions and overcrowding when they arrive at the United States border. The Trump Administration has embraced and expanded the detention of immigrant families despite its own government experts warning of the irreparable harm it causes to children. The Administration has also proposed undoing the Flores Agreement, a set of standards that has protected the rights and treatment of detained immigrant children for over two decades. Cory will fully abide by the Flores Agreement protections for children and fight to ensure that children who come to the United States unaccompanied receive the best care and support during their time in Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) custody, including access to medical, social service, and child welfare professionals, and speedy reunification with their relative or sponsor. Cory would also limit the time that children with family sponsors spend in the care of ORR by ending the memorandum of agreement requirement that requires ICE to do a duplicative review of family sponsors before children can be released.

Create a presumption of liberty with a fair and humane bond process. This Administration has chosen to ramp up immigrant detention despite the fact that there is no community safety justification for doing so. Asylum seekers and long-time members of our communities are torn from their families and held in private prisons and county jails for the months or years it can take to have their case heard in immigration court, including pregnant women, nursing mothers, primary caregivers, the elderly, people with disabilities, LGBTQ, and other vulnerable populations without evidence of a risk to public safety. Cory would shift federal enforcement priorities from a presumption of detention to a presumption of liberty. Under existing practices, many immigrants are arrested without warrants, left in detention for days or weeks without charging documents, denied the opportunity to request release on bond, and, when they are eligible for bond, charge bond that is unattainable, leaving them in detention. Cory would restore fairness and due process to the detention system by directing DHS to require probable cause within 48 hours of detention, ensure fair bond hearings for detained immigrants, require that immigrants are released into the least restrictive setting unless DHS provides evidence of a flight risk or danger to the community, and for immigration judges to take into account an immigrant’s ability to pay when setting bond. Cory would also direct DHS to develop a wide range of alternatives to detention operated in partnership with non-profit community partners, including community-based case management programs. Research has shown that such programs are “cheaper, more effective, and more humane” than detention.

Expand legal counsel for all immigrants, starting with immigrant children. Access to legal counsel remains a challenge: about two-thirds of immigrants face their deportation proceedings without a lawyer. And representation matters. Studies show that immigrants with legal representation are at least twice as likely to gain lawful protection in the United States. Further, when individuals are represented by counsel they are nearly 100% certain to comply with their court dates. Deportation cases can be matters of life and death. The Trump Administration tried to end the Legal Orientation Program (LOP) that provided basic information to immigrants in detention about their process and rights. Cory will use his authority to expand access to counsel and the LOP to cover all detention centers and immigration courts and expand access to counsel for immigrants, especially unaccompanied immigrant children.

A new vision for modernizing immigration

Stop treating immigrants as criminals. The criminal prosecution of improper entry has been used by the Trump Administration as a basis for the separation of thousands of families. Not only is this practice inhumane and counter to our values, it also makes us less safe by focusing law enforcement resources on people who pose no risk to public safety. Cory would reverse President Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy, end Operation Streamline, and direct U.S. attorneys to deprioritize improper entry prosecutions across the U.S., unless an individual poses a public safety risk.

Stop terrorizing immigrants in their homes and communities by reforming ICE and CBP and increasing accountability. In Cory’s administration, he will direct DHS to end immigration raids on “sensitive locations”—which today include schools, medical facilities and places of worship—as carried out by the Trump Administration and to expand the list of sensitive locations to explicitly include courthouses, among other locations. Cory would also end programs like 287(g) agreements used by ICE to allow local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law, and create ombudsman offices at ICE and CBP to monitor abusive behavior.

Expand pathways for refugees and those seeking asylum. Time and time again, the current president has put needless and unjust barriers in the path of refugees and asylum seekers to make obtaining asylum as arduous as possible, as we saw just last week with the heartbreaking image of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 23-month-old daughter Angie Valeria’s death. As president, Cory will meet our international responsibility head-on by removing the unnecessary barriers put in place by the Trump Administration including the Remain in Mexico policy, asylum metering, the asylum ban, guidance that makes it more difficult for gang and domestic violence victims to obtain protection, and the Muslim and refugee bans. Cory would also increase the cap on refugees to a minimum of 110,000, strengthen staffing at the border for interviews for asylum seekers, and strengthen in-country refugee processing in Central America.

Revoke the orders against sanctuary cities and expanding interior enforcement. In January 2017, the president issued an executive order to strip federal funding from localities that do not comply with his agenda of mass-deportation and dramatically expand interior enforcement. Federal courts ruled the president’s executive order unconstitutional and have blocked his policies from taking effect. Cory would rescind these policies and stand up for cities that protect the well-being of every member of their community.

Take steps to end the backlog of immigration cases. The Trump Administration has increased the backlog of immigration cases by establishing unrealistic case quotas for immigration judges and by ending the use of administrative closure. Cory will roll back the executive actions that have increased the backlog, including case quotas, and reinstate administrative closure authority to give judges the ability to waive automatic inadmissibility or deportation.

Reinstate and expand the Central American Minors Program. The Central American Minors (CAM) refugee and parole program provided eligible children from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador a legal, safe alternative to dangerous and sometimes deadly journeys to the U.S by allowing refugees and family members to apply for status in-country or in neighboring countries. The program was ended by the Trump Administration in 2017. Cory would re-establish the program and make improvements to enable more children and their families to utilize this pathway to legal refugee status in the U.S.

Address the root causes of migration and the refugee crisis

Around the world, including in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Middle East, this president has placed barriers in the way of people fleeing crises. Families are fleeing the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador in record numbers. In recent years, corruption has been on the rise, the region has been one of the leaders in the world in poverty and violence, and the effects of climate change -- including drought and other resource shortages -- have accelerated these trends. Rather than address these underlying causes of migration--not only in the Northern Triangle, but also in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Middle East--the Trump administration has provoked our allies and placed barriers in the way of people fleeing crisis. In April, President Trump announced that he would cut foreign aid to the Northern Triangle countries for failing to stop the migration of children and families to seek asylum. This action, like President Trump’s entire approach to immigration, is based on a faulty notion that force and threats are what is needed to control migration. That approach hasn’t worked and has contributed to a humanitarian crisis at our border and the inhumane treatment and abuse of immigrants within our country. Cory has supported an increased investment and multi-year commitment in foreign aid to Central America to address the root causes of migration. As part of his executive actions to address this crisis, Cory would strengthen that commitment by:

Appoint a Special Envoy at the State Department to lead Administration efforts and focus on the root causes of migration - corruption, violence, poverty, and climate change. Instead of slow-walking and proposing to cut the disbursement of crucial foreign aid funds to address the root causes of migration like the Trump Administration, Cory would commit to using foreign aid to address the root causes of migration and would appoint a Special Envoy to focus on and prioritize addressing the root causes of migration by:

  • Leading a comprehensive strategy to invest in democratic institutions and reduce corruption
  • Reducing violence and crime
  • Fighting poverty and supporting economic development
  • Recognizing the role of climate change and identifying strategies to mitigate its effects on migration.

Use the full power of our diplomatic tools. From cutting successful international aid programs, to failing to support a joint United Nations-Guatemala anti-corruption commission, to allowing crucial diplomatic posts to remain vacant, President Trump’s approach to diplomacy has only contributed to growing crises around the world. Cory would use U.S. diplomacy to lead struggling nations toward reforms and investments that address the root causes of the migration crisis. Cory would also engage collaboratively with regional partners to launch a coordinated effort. He would bring to the table anti-corruption, pro-democratic-institution and transparency partners, reform-minded officials, human rights leaders, anti-poverty, and other innovative organizations on the ground to collaborate on a comprehensive effort across the region.

Reaffirming our values by expanding protections for immigrants and rolling back the Trump Administration’s anti-immigrant policies

Restore and expand protections for immigrants who live in our communities as family members, neighbors, colleagues, and friends. After nearly two years of litigation, the fate of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) remains uncertain. In September 2017, the Trump Administration rescinded the DACA program, throwing the lives and futures of more than 700,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children - including their family members and communities - into limbo. Over the past two-and-a-half years, the Trump Administration also has moved to revoke Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 98% of recipients, as well as for Liberians with Deferred Enforced Departure (DED). These people - the vast majority of whom have lived and worked in the U.S. with lawful status for decades - may soon face the prospect of being deported to unsafe and unstable conditions in their former home countries. Cory would restore and expand policies that provide protection to Dreamers, their families, individuals with TPS, and those with DED status, and promote opportunities to help beneficiaries pursue available pathways to citizenship.

End the discriminatory Muslim, refugee, and asylum bans. In September 2017, after two previous attempts were thwarted in federal courts, President Trump proposed a third version of his discriminatory Muslim ban, which bans people from five Muslim-majority countries, and North Korea from accessing both immigrant and non-immigrant visas. Around the same time, the president ramped up his attacks on refugees and asylum seekers through a series of proposals, which sought to ban refugees from several Muslim-majority countries, and an asylum ban which sought to summarily deport whole categories of asylum seekers. Cory will rescind these discriminatory restrictions on immigration and travel to the United States.

Stop the border wall that is wasting taxpayer money and harming local environments and communities. The President’s wasteful border wall won’t make us safer. In fact, efforts to build a wall have devastated the environment around the border and stalled important trade and legal human transit. As president, Cory would end the executive actions that provide funding for the border wall, and facilitate removal of the wall where it is harming border communities.

Rescind the proposed public charge rule that targets immigrant families. The Trump Administration’s targets immigrants for deportation if they use programs that reduce hunger, poverty, and sickness, forcing them to choose between basic needs and keeping their family together. Cory would roll back the public charge rule.

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