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A law to prohibit the indefinite detention of migrants and asylum seekers

"This administration treats asylum seekers on our southern border as criminals the moment they arrive in the United States."
6 May 2019 – 03:00 PM EDT
A group of Central American immigrants detained on the border between Texas and Mexico seeking asylum in the United States. Crédito: Getty Images

Earlier this week, President Trump announced drastic changes that will make it nearly impossible for individuals fleeing violence to legally claim asylum in the United States. And earlier this month, Attorney General Bill Barr announced his decision to allow the indefinite detention of asylum seekers in federal custody.

These policies aren’t just reprehensible, immoral and un-American -- they violate the values enshrined in the Constitution.

Which is why I introduced the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act in the Senate this week alongside Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA)in the House of Representatives.

Our bill will prohibit this administration —and prevent any future administrations— from detaining asylum seekers and immigrants indefinitely by mandating that those detained are able to appear before an immigration judge for a bond hearing.

This administration treats asylum seekers as criminals the moment they set foot on American soil. Our bill treats asylum seekers with the humanity they deserve. Our bill will require the government to make the case for the use of detention, not use it as a default, so that detention is used only as a last resort and in extreme cases when an individual poses a danger to the community or a flight risk.

Finally, our bill will end the use of private prisons and county jails to detain immigrants and dramatically increase oversight of federal immigration detention facilities to protect the civil and human rights of immigrants and asylum seekers.

Many people are living in fear because of this administration’s un-American approach to immigration. We can’t wait to act. Let us speak in a chorus of conviction: help is on the way. There is a better day to come.

(Cory Booker is United States Senator for New Jersey and presidential candidate for the Democratic Party)