The 2020 presidential hopeful crossed the El Paso, Texas, port of entry into Ciudad Juarez with immigrant rights attorneys and advocates to get five women fleeing domestic violence admitted into the U.S. after they had been sent back to Mexico.
“These women had really horrific stories,” Booker told reporters in El Paso. “They are survivors of sexual violence, attacks. They are being preyed upon. They have legitimate fears. This policy that we have, what it’s doing is pushing people who are already vulnerable back into a dangerous situation.”
Booker described his visit in a series of tweets, saying the women had been abused and lived in squalid conditions with inadequate food, water and medical attention while detained in the U.S.
“These stories are profoundly alarming, but my words can’t begin to capture the pain. Their very human dignity is under assault, and it’s being done in our name,” he tweeted.
Linda Rivas, an attorney with the Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, told The El Paso Times the women were victims of sexual assault and labor trafficking in Juarez.
“I saw an opportunity that I could make a difference with my office,” Booker said, “and get them fairly evaluated. We’re going to follow them all the way through that process. They’re legitimate and they should be allowed entry.”
Rivas said the women will most likely be asked to prove they face significant risk if returned to Juarez.
“We hope that they are released from MPP and eventually allowed to seek asylum without being detained” or returned to Mexico, Rivas told the paper.
Booker is the second Democratic presidential candidate to visit Juarez. Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke visited the border city on Sunday to draw attention to the plight of immigrants.
Booker’s visit comes a day after he unveiled an aggressive plan that would undo much of President Trump’s immigration agenda. His proposal would expand protections for undocumented immigrants through executive order and eliminate immigrant detention.
The Trump administration has come under fire from lawmakers and immigrant rights activists over reports of poor conditions in Border Patrol detention facilities. A recent report by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General detailed overcrowding and prolonged detention, as observed by government inspectors at five facilities in South Texas.
During their visits, the inspectors found many detainees — including children — lacked access to showers and lived in unsanitary conditions.
On Wednesday, Trump tweeted that the Border Patrol employees are “not hospital workers, doctors or nurses” and that many undocumented immigrants “are living far better now than where they came from, and in far safer conditions.”