Warren: Decriminalize Border Crossings; "Laws Matter," Seeking Asylum Is Not A Crime

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CNN: During CNN's 2020 Democratic primary debate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Steve Bullock disagree over providing health insurance to undocumented immigrants.

DANA BASH, CNN: Thank you, Congressman.



Senator Warren, you say the provision making illegal border crossings a crime is totally unnecessary. Please respond.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): So the problem is that, right now, the criminalization statute is what gives Donald Trump the ability to take children away from their parents. It's what gives him the ability to lock up people at our borders.

We need to continue to have border security, and we can do that, but what we can't do is not live our values. I've been down to the border. I have seen the mothers. I have seen the cages of babies. We must be a country that every day lives our values. And that means we cannot...

BASH: Thank you, Senator Warren.

WARREN: ... make it a crime...

BASH: Just to clarify...

WARREN: ... when someone...

BASH: Thank you, Senator. Just to clarify, would you decriminalize...

WARREN: Yes.

BASH: ... illegal border crossings?

WARREN: The point is not about criminalization. That has given Donald Trump the tool to break families apart.

BASH: Thank you, Senator.

WARREN: We need...

BASH: Governor Hickenlooper, your response?

HICKENLOOPER: I agree that we need secure borders. There's no question about that. And the frustration with what's going on in Washington is they're kicking the ball back and forth. Secure the borders, make sure whatever law we have doesn't allow children to be snatched from their parents and put in cages. How hard can that be?

We've got -- I don't know -- on the two debate nights, we've got 170 years of Washington experience. Somehow it seems like that should be fairly fixable.

WARREN: Well, and one way to fix it is to decriminalize. That's the whole point. What we're...

(APPLAUSE)

... looking for here is a way to take away the tool that Donald Trump has used...

BASH: Thank you, Senator Warren.

WARREN: ... to break up families....

BASH: Governor Bullock, about two-thirds of Democratic voters and many of your rivals here for the nomination, support giving health insurance to undocumented immigrants. You haven't gone that far. Why not?

GOV. STEVE BULLOCK (D-MONTANA): Look, I think this is the part of the discussion that shows how often these debates are detached from people's lives. We've got 100,000 people showing up at the border right now. If we decriminalize entry, if we give health care to everyone, we'll have multiples of that. Don't take my word, that was President Obama's Homeland Security secretary that said that.

The biggest problem right now that we have with immigration, it's Donald Trump. He's using immigration to not only rip apart families, but rip apart this country. We can actually get to the point where we have safe borders, where we have a path to citizenship, where we have opportunities for Dreamers.

And you don't have to decriminalize everything. What you have to do is have a president in there with the judgment and the decency to treat someone that comes to the border like one of our own.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): You know, I just wanted (ph) to...

BASH: Senator...

WARREN: ... add on this...

BASH: ... he just said your plan in unrealistic. How do you respond?

WARREN: You know, I think that what we have to do, is we have to be an America that is clear about what we want to do with immigration. We need to expand legal immigration. We need to create a path for citizenship, not just for Dreamers but for grandmas and for people who have been working here in the farms and for students who have overstayed their visas...

(APPLAUSE)

... we need to fix the crisis at the border. And a big part of how we do that, is we do not play into Donald Trump's hands.

BULLOCK: But...

WARREN: He wants to stir up the crisis at the border because that's his overall message. It's -- if there's anything wrong in your life, blame them.

BASH: Thank you, Senator Warren.

Governor Bullock, your response?

BULLOCK: But you are playing into Donald Trump's hands. The challenge isn't that it's a criminal offense to cross the border. The challenge is that Donald Trump is president, and using this to rip families apart.

A sane immigration system needs a sane leader. And we can do that without decriminalizing and providing health care for everyone.

And it's not me saying that, that's Obama's Homeland Security secretary...

WARREN: No.

BULLOCK: ... that said you'll cause further problems at the border, not making it better.

WARREN: What -- what you're saying is ignore the law. Laws matter. And it matters if we say our law is that we will lock people up who come here, seeking refuge, who come here, seeking asylum, that is not a crime. And as Americans, what we need to do is have a sane system that keeps us safe at the border, but does not criminalize the activity...

BASH: Thank you, Senator Warren.

WARREN: ... of a mother fleeing here for safety.

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