Cory Booker Introduces Anti-Detention Bill
By Preston Huennekens | May 3, 2019
This week, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) re-introduced legislation that would significantly reduce the authority of the federal government to enforce immigration law. The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act (S. 1243) would greatly reduce detention space and restrict the government’s ability to hold most aliens in detention. If enacted, agents from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would be forced to release most illegal aliens they encounter, thereby rendering detention virtually non-existent.
Booker, who also is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, previously introduced the bill in June 2018 with progressive firebrand congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) sponsoring its companion bill in the House. Rep. Jayapal, a vocal and aggressive opponent of immigration enforcement, co-sponsored legislation (H.R. 6361) in the last Congress to abolish ICE, a position shared by Senator Booker.
The bill’s sections address two main objectives. The first of which is to reduce and regulate physical detention space available to immigration authorities, while the second aims to restrict the legal process by which the government can hold and detain illegal aliens at all.
Reducing Detention Space
Section 3(a) stipulates that DHS inspect all detention centers at least once a year. Interestingly, Section 3(g) calls for the collection of aliens’ personal data. It includes their gender, arrest date, arrest location, and other information. This would likely be subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for statistics of the general population in Department of Homeland Security (DHS) custody. Such information would be a treasure trove of information for immigration researchers.
Section 5(b) calls for the phasing out of private detention facilities for immigration detention purposes. Private detention facilities are a force-multiplier for ICE and CBP that currently make up the majority of all available detention space. Were S. 1243 enacted, the government would need to cancel all contracts with private detention facilities within three years. The government could only detain aliens in facilities owned and operated by the Department of Homeland Security. According to a June 2018 report, DHS owns only five facilities for such purposes.
Section 7 changes the procedures for detaining illegal aliens. One of the first provisions would reverse Attorney General William Barr’s decision to deny bond to illegal aliens navigating the immigration courts.
Incredibly, this same section states that all DHS agents need warrants in order to arrest aliens. This would shackle CBP and ICE agents and allow thousands of aliens to avoid detection and removal. ICE agents could no longer make collateral or at-large arrests and could no longer conduct targeted enforcement raids. These successful public-safety measures would be a thing of the past.
Section 7(e) clarifies that in all dealings with detained aliens there exists a “presumption of release.” Thus, DHS has to justify why it wants to detain every single individual. This is a massive change to the way that aliens are currently detained.
It also adds that DHS cannot detain “vulnerable persons” unless there are extraordinary circumstances. These include anyone under the age of 21, LGBT persons, those with a disability or illness, anyone who passed the credible fear threshold of the asylum process and other persons.
The concepts of “presumption of release” and “vulnerable persons” do not exist anywhere in U.S. Code as it relates to immigration.
The language in this bill is alarming and straight out of the open-borders playbook. At this time, this bill has no chance of becoming law. It likely will never make it out of the committee stage. But it is telling that Senator Booker, a presidential candidate, introduced this legislation. FAIR continues to monitor the immigration proposals and platforms of all Democratic presidential candidates heading into the 2020 primary and general election.
 Note – sections from S. 3112 of the 115h Congress. The text of S. 1243 is unavailable online at this time, but is a reintroduction of the same bill.