Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., a Democratic presidential contender, laid out a plan Tuesday to use executive action if elected president to overhaul the nation's immigration system, including shutting down detention centers with inhumane conditions.
Democratic presidential candidates and lawmakers in the last week have visited shelters and decried what they say is the ill-treatment of immigrants, both adults and children, held at these facilities.
As president, Booker said, he would unilaterally create new standards for immigrant facilities operated by the Department of Homeland Security and shut down ones that don't meet them. He would also phase out for-profit contracts with private prison facilities that run some of the centers.
Booker's assertive approach would not only dramatically alter the nation's use of detention centers to house immigrants who cross the border illegally but also would include sweeping immigration changes that have eluded Congress for decades.
Booker pledges to undo many of President Donald Trump's controversial immigration policies that he put in place through executive order.
Among many actions, Booker says he would restore the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which allows "dreamers" - undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children - to stay without fear of deportation; end the Remain-in-Mexico policy, which requires asylum seekers to wait for their immigration court hearings in Mexico; rescind the ban on people coming to the United States from majority-Muslim countries; and stop the construction of Trump's U. S-Mexico border wall.
"When kids are being stripped away from their parents and held in cages, I will not wait for Congress to solve this crisis," Booker said in a statement. "On day one of my presidency, I will take immediate steps to end this administration's moral vandalism."
Booker has enjoyed national political stardom since his days as Newark mayor, but his presidential campaign hasn't taken off like those of some of his Democratic primary opponents.
He hinted at his plans at the Democratic debate last week, answering a question about what he'd do on his first day partially in Spanish.
"The situation right now is unacceptable. This president has attacked, has demonized immigrants. It's unacceptable," Booker said. "I'm going to change this one."
This article was written by Colby Itkowitz, a reporter for The Washington Post.