NEW JERSEY – Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey attacked President Donald Trump Monday for treating illegal aliens that drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol as criminals.
Democratic lawmakers are attempting to limit the number of illegal aliens that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can detain at one time. The demands have slowed congressional negotiations on Trump’s border wall.
The New Jersey senator appeared on CNN Monday night and blamed ICE’s enforcement policies for detaining more illegal aliens than Congress allocated funding for.
“The reason that [ICE is] already 8,000 [beds] over their budgeted amount – so they’re violating the budget – is because of the president’s zero-tolerance policy that has turned everyone, regardless of their record, into a criminal,” Menendez told CNN host Wolf Blitzer.
If you cross the border undocumented, [Trump] has now made you a criminal,” Menendez said. “If a person has a driving while under the influence (DUI) violation, he is now making that, saying that’s criminal.”
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In previous administrations, ICE only detained and deported “violent” criminals, Menendez said.
“Because he tears children away from their mothers and puts them all in detention facilities, he has an over-demand as a result of his policy, so it’s his policy that’s driving this,” Menendez continued.
Former President Barack Obama also criminalized illegal immigration and separated families at the U.S.-Mexico border, though at a lower rate than the Trump administration. The Obama administration prosecuted nearly 500,000 illegal immigrants between 2010 and 2016, according to Department of Homeland Security data.
“That’s different than what we’re talking about and what’s driving this demand for beds. It’s his demand to take everybody — look, I had a grandfather from New Jersey who’s been here over 20 years. Works hard. Never had a criminal record. They wanted to deport him. They wanted to detain him. That’s not the essence of brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, who otherwise have been law-abiding in every other respect. He wants to incarcerate them as well as he seeks to deport them. Far different than criminal aliens.”
Democrats say a bed cap would force ICE to prioritize detainment of the most dangerous criminals. ICE officials say the Democrat proposal would result in violent illegal aliens escaping into the U.S.