8 Key Questions on Immigration for 2020 Presidential Candidates

 
June 26th, 2019

  1. The issue of immigration and the US/Mexico border has been a major point of focus for Trump. He has even shut down the government over this issue. The revolving door of leadership at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) produces more and more individuals obedient to Trump’s bidding. He has threatened trade wars with our neighbors in order to build pressure for his immigration agenda. The images and reports from concentration camps and along the border painfully demonstrate the harm and trauma inflicted on our people daily. This is a crisis, one that Trump is exacerbating. What would be your immediate first steps to address the crisis at the US/Mexico border and in Central America?

 

  1. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions instituted a ‘zero tolerance’ policy last year, which many point to as a catalyst for the family separation crisis at the border, leading to the incarceration of infants and children. Sessions’ decision doubled down on the criminalization of migration and moved us in the opposite direction of criminal justice reform. Last year, immigration violations made up some 57% of the federal criminal docket at roughly 94,000 prosecutions, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. Would you commit to end these policies by repealing Sections 1325 and 1326, the laws that lead border crossers to be criminally charged? 

 

  1. Over the last several years we have witnessed unprecedented criminalization, detention, and deportation of immigrants. ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) continue to operate with a virtual blank check despite broad public support for solutions beyond the breaking up and locking up of communities and families. In a first step towards the necessary changes that need to occur with how this country treats immigrants, as President will you institute a moratorium on deportations?

 

  1. The American Dream and Promise Act included provisions which excluded people who have had prior contact with the criminal system from the chance to obtain lawful status. Narrow policies on immigration that only help some immigrants end up dividing our communities between those labeled “deserving” of humanitarian reform, and those who will be used to justify the growing system of immigration enforcement, detention, and incarceration. Despite all the energy for criminal justice reform, immigrants are being left behind, with 750 of the first 3,000 federal prisoners being released as part of the First Step Act handed over to ICE for potential deportation. What would you do to protect all immigrants, even those with a criminal record?

 

  1. Even before Trump entered office, asylum seekers struggled to achieve meaningful protection in the US, and immigrants who sought to stay with their US-born family members struggled with an overloaded system not designed to facilitate family reunification. Beyond simply reversing the policies Trump put in place, what plans and ideas do you have to help asylum seekers and to strengthen family reunification?

 

  1. The Trump Administration has dramatically expanded the immigration detention system – new federally-run and private-prison run detention centers have opened, and existing ones have expanded their capacity. The increased use of electronic monitoring of immigrants means that even those who leave detention end up a part of what Michelle Alexander and others are calling “e-carceration.”  What is your position and plan on the use of immigration detention and electronic monitoring of people facing deportation?

 

  1. Technology companies play a critical role in operationalizing Trump’s immigration agenda. Companies like Palantir build ICE’s software to surveil immigrants. All of this is built on Amazon’s cloud. We’ve got upstarts like Anduril selling surveillance at the border, and big companies like Microsoft telling us they are “proud to work with ICE.” The CEO of AWS, Andy Jassy, spoke at a conference recently and said he would work with any government agency as long as it’s legal. Other CEOs have claimed it’s patriotic to provide the government with state of the art technology. However, when this work goes unchecked and advances the policies of this Administration, it is not only irresponsible, it is unpatriotic. An expanded surveillance state threatens our most basic civil liberties. Tech companies receive large contracts to support the immigration system, and those contracts keep getting bigger each year. What will you do about tech’s role in immigration and policing?

 

  1. In 2015, timed with LGBTQ pride festivities, Immigration and Customs Enforcement celebrated its announcement of guidelines for the safe and humane treatment of vulnerable populations. This memo is obviously not being recognized. In the last year, two transgender women died in immigrant detention centers. Roxana Hernandez died from cardiac arrest. Subsequent investigations found she was neglected medically and abused. Earlier this month, Johana Medina Leon died while in custody of immigration officials. She waited months for an opportunity to present herself at an official port of entry and petition for asylum. This is in addition to the growing number of children currently dying in the custody of immigration officials. If immigration detention facilities cannot guarantee the safety of detainees and in particular vulnerable populations, what is the justification for continuing to incarcerate migrants and expand the detention system?