Elizabeth Warren’s Immigration Plan Takes Aim at Trump-Era Abuses

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts offered an immigration proposal on Thursday that would create new protections for migrants, investigate allegations of abuse under the Trump administration and allow far higher numbers of refugees into the country.

Ms. Warren’s plan includes an assertive push for liberal immigration priorities, like decriminalizing unauthorized border crossings. She also pledged to establish judicial review for immigration cases and create an “Office of New Americans” that would provide services to immigrants transitioning into American society, including English classes.

Ms. Warren has gained ground in polling of the Democratic presidential race in recent months by providing a steady diet of detailed policy proposals on issues including a wealth tax and student debt cancellation. But until Thursday, an immigration proposal had been conspicuously absent.

Much of her plan, which she posted on Medium, calls for a suite of measures similar to those that have already been suggested by other Democrats seeking the party’s nomination.

Ms. Warren’s plan — like those advanced by the former housing secretary Julián Castro and former Representative Beto O’Rourke — seeks to reverse what she calls “bigoted” policies imposed by the Trump administration; expand pathways to citizenship for immigrants; and spend more on aid to Central America to help address the root causes of migration.

“Donald Trump wants to divide us — to pit worker against worker, neighbor against neighbor,” Ms. Warren wrote. “We can be better than this. Americans know that immigrants helped weave the very fabric of our country in the past — and they know that immigrants belong here today.”

Ms. Warren said she would aim to resettle 125,000 refugees in the United States in her first year in office, and at least 175,000 per year by the end of her first term. That would be a substantial increase from the levels under the Trump administration, which has said it will cap the number at 30,000 this year. It would also go beyond the annual cap of 110,000 refugees that President Barack Obama put in place before he left office.

The plan also codifies Ms. Warren’s support for repealing the section of immigration law that makes illegal border crossings a criminal violation and that has enabled the Trump administration to separate parents and their children. Under her plan, unauthorized crossings would be a civil violation and prosecutors would “prioritize immigration cases with security concerns.”

Decriminalizing undocumented crossings was a central pillar of Mr. Castro’s immigration proposal, which he leveraged to draw contrast with Mr. O’Rourke during the first Democratic debate. Mr. Castro’s debate performance earned him positive reviews from political strategists, if not a significant increase in support in the polls.

Ms. Warren also said she would create a task force in the Justice Department to investigate allegations of abuses of migrants detained by the Trump administration, including “medical neglect and physical and sexual assaults.”

“If you are violating the basic rights of immigrants, now or in the future, a Warren administration will hold you accountable,” she wrote.

As she has rolled out her plans, Ms. Warren has sought to frame her ideas as the engines of her broad fight for “big, structural change.” The immigration plan she outlined Thursday was no exception.

And like her rivals, Ms. Warren is using her proposal as an opportunity to draw stark contrasts with President Trump.

Mr. Trump placed immigration at the center of his 2016 campaign and has since made it a focus of his domestic agenda as president. Over the past two years, his administration has pursued anti-immigration policies that have drawn cheers from supporters and protests from critics, such as banning travel from several Muslim-majority countries, separating families at the border, restricting asylum claims and seeking to build a wall along the southern border.

In the Medium post, Ms. Warren accused Mr. Trump of having “advanced a policy of cruelty and division that demonizes immigrants.”

Her announcement came as Immigration and Customs Enforcement was preparing nationwide raids to arrest thousands of members of undocumented families beginning this weekend, according to a New York Times report.

If elected president, Ms. Warren would need the help of Congress to fully realize her plans. But her immigration overhaul would not be likely to pass through a Republican-controlled Senate, a reality she seemed to concede when she promised to “push for” legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

Her plan also included a pledge to “reshape” ICE, but not abolish the agency as some immigration activists have proposed. She also called for eliminating private detention facilities; expanding legal immigration through more lenient family reunification policies; and sending $1.5 billion in aid to Central America each year.

Advocates for immigrants praised Ms. Warren’s approach on Thursday. “The proposal shows that Senator Warren has a strong understanding of the complexity of our current immigration system and acknowledges that a single bill is not a solution — we must get to the root causes by making structural changes,” said Marielena Hincapié, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Fund.

But Jessica M. Vaughan, the director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors significant reductions in immigration, called Ms. Warren’s view of the country’s immigration system “badly distorted.”

“Her proposals are unworkable, extreme, and would be disastrous for our country if anyone actually tried to enact them all,” Ms. Vaughan said. “No doubt Warren’s plan will be a big hit in the halls of Harvard Law School and among the big donor circles of the left, but it’s good for other Americans also to hear this so they know what she has in mind for them.”

Ms. Warren was among several Democratic candidates scheduled to speak Thursday night at an event in Milwaukee hosted by the League of United Latin American Citizens.