WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), along with U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Ron Wyden (D-OR), today introduced a bill targeting family detention and the harsh and inhumane conditions of immigration detention centers that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) uses to house thousands of immigrants. The bill is a Senate companion to a House bill introduced in October by Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Adam Smith (D-WA).

The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act would significantly restrict family detention, preventing the federal government from expending resources to detain immigrants except in instances where immigrants pose a flight risk or a risk to public safety. The bill also ends the use of private prisons to detain immigrants, sets humane standards for detention facilities, strengthens the inspection and monitoring of facilities in order to crack down on abuses, and better protects the civil rights of immigrant detainees.

“For centuries, the United States has been known throughout the world as a beacon of light and hope for the downtrodden, the oppressed, the cast aside,” Senator Booker said. “America is at its best when we welcome immigrants fleeing oppression, famine, or injustice. Yes, our borders must be secure, but our immigration policies also need to reflect our American values.”

“Separating immigrant children from their parents, indefinitely detaining families, and subjecting families to the inhumane conditions in which detainees are currently held is shameful,” Senator Booker added. “And the fact that many immigrants are often arrested and held in such conditions without due process is completely at odds with our Constitution and our ideals. Our bill would make a series of reforms to fix this broken system and restore justice and fairness to our immigration detention system.”

“President Trump’s plan to replace family separation with mass family incarceration is no plan at all,” Senator Leahy said. “Effective alternatives to detention exist, and families that pose no flight risk or a threat to public safety should not languish inside the caged government shelters. We must never revisit those dark chapters in our history when we interned families falsely and repulsively in the name of national security. I am proud to be the lead cosponsor of this legislation that would protect the dignity and due process of vulnerable immigrants, in line with our most basic values."

“The breakup of families at the border and placement of children in detention camps is the latest example of the Trump Administration’s immoral and unjust immigration detention policies,” Senator Warren said. “This bill will help hold the Department of Homeland Security accountable and make sure immigrants and refugees are treated fairly and humanely.”

“People coming to this country, fleeing violence, and looking for a better life must be treated humanely,” Senator Hirono said. “I’m proud to join Senator Booker in this effort to hold the Department of Homeland Security accountable and ensure that families being held in detention are kept in safe facilities that meet the standards that we as a nation should expect of ourselves.”

“This legislation would put a stop to the Trump administration’s worst abuses on the border: indefinite, indiscriminate detention; tent cities in the desert with no oversight; deplorable detention conditions for the most vulnerable migrants; and an adjudication system that makes a mockery of due process. Family separation cannot be replaced by family incarceration,” Senator Blumenthal said. “Indefinitely imprisoning children, families, and pregnant women is inhumane and intolerable in a democratic society. History will judge us harshly if we permit these inhumane and immoral policies to be carried out without our opposition.”

“It is unacceptable that not only has the Trump administration spent weeks ripping children away from their parents, but they have also forced children and families into inhumane and shameful detention camps,” Senator Duckworth said. “Our bill will hold the Department of Homeland Security accountable and ensure immigrant and refugee families are treated humanely and no longer torn apart or indefinitely detained.”

“The United States of America is not and must never be about locking up little children in cages on the southern border,” Senator Sanders said. “This bill will provide important safeguards, preventing the Trump administration’s inhumane detention policies. Instead of throwing entire families in jail, many of whom are fleeing unspeakable violence in their own countries and seeking protection under our asylum laws, we should treat people in a way that upholds our moral values and the ideals of our laws.”

“I am disturbed that the Department of Homeland Security continues to violate the rights of families at the Southern border with almost no accountability or oversight. Congress must rein them in now,” Senator Gillibrand said. “I am proud to support this important legislation to help fix our broken immigration system and hold DHS accountable. Keeping our country safe cannot come at a cost to basic human rights. We must ensure that our immigration and border patrol agencies are never acting above the law, and we must also ensure that every family is treated with dignity by our government.”

“The Trump treatment of asylum seekers hoping for safe haven in America has been exposed as cruel and heartless. As the proud son of parents who found refuge in the United States from the Nazis, I know firsthand how immigrants and refugees strengthen our country,” Senator Wyden said. “This legislation would restore American values of decency and fair treatment to this administration’s immoral immigration policy so refugees and immigrants would once again find America to be a beacon of hope.”

“Our nation’s immigration system has been broken for far too long, and it’s breaking further under the injustices of the Trump administration,” Representative Jayapal said. “We’re saying ‘no more’ to rampant deportation forces, to cruelty and death in detention, and to privately-run detention centers that jail immigrants in order to turn a profit. With our bicameral efforts in the House and Senate, we can bring the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act into law and restore justice to this system. It is time to make real comprehensive, humane reforms to our detention system, and this bill is the right place to start.”

“The problem that we face today is twofold: our immigration system is broken, and the way Donald Trump is choosing to enforce existing immigration laws is dead wrong,” Representative Smith said. “On multiple occasions, the President has created immigration crises that unjustly target immigrant children. I introduced the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act to address the systemic problems in our immigration detention system. In light of the Trump Administration’s “zero-tolerance policy” and the June 20, 2018 Executive Order on family detention, I am honored to have Senator Cory Booker introduce a Senate companion bill. Our legislation would put an end to the administration’s abuses of the immigration detention system and allow individuals and families to live outside of detention while they await their immigration proceedings. There is absolutely no reason for asylum seeking families to languish in detention facilities while they await the outcome of their cases. We need to pass the Dignity for Detained Immigrants into law to reform our immigration system and keep families together.“

Specifically, the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act would:

·         Prevent the detention of a primary caregiver, or vulnerable populations (i.e. minors, pregnant women, LGBTQ individuals, survivors of torture, etc.) unless the government can show it is unreasonable or not practicable to place them in community-based supervision.

·         Establish binding civil detention standards that are at least as protective as the Civil Immigration Detention Standards adopted by the American Bar Association in 2012 (the detention standards currently in use are not binding and provide minimal protections modeled on correctional rather than civil detention systems).

·         Require the DHS Office of the Inspector General to conduct unannounced inspections of all detention facilities at least once per year and to make such reports publicly available (the current system of inspections and oversight is rife with loopholes and woefully inadequate to document and remedy egregious failures. For example, facilities are given advance warning of inspections and most facilities are inspected using outdated standards).

o   Negative findings would result in financial penalties for contractors and remedial measures for DHS.

·         Require DHS to investigate any deaths in custody and make the resulting report publicly available (currently, DHS is not required by law release findings publically).

·         Require DHS to terminate all contracts with private prisons and local jails for the purpose of detention over the course of a three-year phase-out period.

·         Require DHS to obtain judicial warrants of arrest or provide detainees a probable cause hearing before an immigration judge within 48 hours of detention.

·         Strike the $1,500 minimum bond amount currently in the statute and require immigration judges to consider the immigrant’s ability to pay when setting bond.

·         Require DHS to render a custody determination within 48 hours of taking an immigrant into custody and grants the immigrant the right to appeal such determination before an immigration judge within 72 hours.

Earlier this month, Booker joined Senator Feinstein and 30 other Senate colleagues in introducing a bill to halt the Trump Administration policy of separating immigrant families at the border. Yesterday, he took to the Senate floor to blast the Trump policy.