Beto O’Rourke’s Immigration Plan Shows How Trump Has Shifted The Democratic Debate

May 29, 2019

An O’Rourke administration would limit detention of migrants to those with criminal backgrounds serious enough to represent “a danger to our communities.” Although the plan doesn’t specify what types of offenses would warrant detention, his pledge to eliminate private prison contractors from the detention system would drastically scale back the number of beds for which Immigration and Customs Enforcement now contracts.

Prior to Trump’s election, Congress mandated that ICE maintain a detention bed capacity of about 34,500. In practice, that number has shot up to more than 50,000 in the years since Trump took office. Before the Trump expansion, about two-thirds of those beds were managed under private contracts, according to a report by Austin-based advocacy group Grassroots Leadership.

While O’Rourke’s plan would leave the illegal entry statute untouched, his pledge to more broadly cancel federal contracts with private prison companies would put a major dent in prosecutions for petty border-crossing violations. O’Rourke’s plan would eliminate private contractors from both migrant detention and the federal prison system, campaign spokesman Chris Evans confirmed.