Amnesty International USA asked Cory Booker 13 questions about some of the most pressing human rights issues of our time.

Here is his response exactly as provided:


  • How should the U.S. respond to the growing number of asylum-seekers, including families and children, seeking protection at the U.S. southern border?

We should not close America’s doors to asylum seekers in their time of need. That’s why, as Senator, I have introduced the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act which would prevent the detention of primary caregivers, ensure all immigrants receive individual, fair bond hearings by ending mandatory detention practices and requiring proof from DHS within 2 days of detention to show that detention was necessary, and ending the use of for-profit prisons. This bill will hold the Department of Homeland Security accountable and ensures vulnerable immigrants are treated with the dignity and respect that should be expected in this country. Some of this bill’s provisions include:

    • Ensuring that all immigrants receive individualized and fair bond hearings by ending the use of mandatory detention of certain immigrants and requiring DHS to establish probable cause of removability within 48 hours of detention
    • Preventing the detention of a primary caregiver unless the government can show it is unreasonable to place the caregiver in community-based supervision enabling more families to stay together
    • Ending the use of private prisons and county jails for immigration detention over a three-year phase-out period
    • Improving detention standards for detention facilities housing immigrants
    • Requiring the DHS Office of Inspector General to conduct random spot checks of all immigration detention facilities and stiffen penalties for facilities found to be in violation
    • Requiring DHS to investigate all deaths of immigrants in its custody and issue a public report within 60 days
  • What can the U.S. do to address the causes of migration from the Northern Triangle of Central America?

We need to address the underlying causes of migration from the Northern Triangle of Central America–namely persistent economic inequality coupled with poor governance and insecurity. I am an original cosponsor of the Central America Reform and Enforcement Act which seeks to implement many aspects of my vision for addressing the root causes of migration from the Northern Triangle, while also enhancing the oversight of our border and asylum institutions.

  • What role should U.S. refugee admissions play in our response to the global refugee crisis?

The United States of America has a history of welcoming refugees and immigrants. To stay true to our founding values, we should not close our borders and our hearts to those seeking safety and a better life. President Trump’s actions to limit refugee admissions stands in contrast to these values. That’s why I am a cosponsor of the Guaranteed Refugee Admissions Ceiling Enhancement (GRACE) Act, legislation that would prevent a U.S. President from setting a Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions at a level below 95,000 in a given fiscal year. This bill also ensures that each officer responsible for refugee admissions or resettlement treats the Presidential Determination as a goal, and mandates quarterly reports to Congress with specific oversight requirements.

  • What kinds of support could the U.S. provide to countries and regions experiencing record levels of internal displacement induced by causes as wide-ranging as climate change and warfare?

We must restore America’s global humanitarian leadership. First, we need to end the Trump Administration’s cuts to foreign assistance. We must also target our efforts to address the unique causes of internal displacement. In some regions, U.S. development assistance and multilateral support is needed to tackle the effects of natural disasters and climate change through the UN Green Climate Fund, the World Bank’s Global Environmental Facility, and more. In other cases of internal displacement greater levels of financial and technical assistance can make a real impact; in others we must recognize that the causes are often political, requiring robust diplomacy and development aid. On the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I have focused much of my efforts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo; there are a multitude of diplomatic tools and approaches we can use to reduce political instability and unrest, including sanctions, anti-money laundering regulations, and direct engagement with accountable government institutions.

  • What policies should the U.S. implement to reduce and prevent gun violence?

We have to end the epidemic of gun violence and invest in communities that have been shattered by the trauma left in its wake. Coming from a community where gun violence is a near every day occurrence, I understand the need for a plan of action that tackles the American problem of gun violence, which is why I’ve come out with a 16-point plan to address gun violence in this nation.

My plan, the most sweeping of any presidential candidate, would keep guns out of the wrong hands with gun licensing, hold gun manufacturers accountable, and bring the fight to the NRA. For more information, see my medium post here (https://medium.com/@corybooker/corys-plan-to-end-the-gun-violence-epidemic-ab377d9fb112).

  • How should the U.S. address police killings of civilians, including the lack of transparency and accountability?

My campaign is built on values of justice and opportunity. We simply must do more to end racial profiling and reform policing practices. The first step in fixing this problem is understanding the extent of the problem that we have. Justice and accountability go hand in hand — but without reliable data it’s difficult to hold people accountable or create effective policies that change the status quo. That’s why I have introduced legislation to promote transparency and accountability for our law enforcement agencies. The Police Reporting of Information, Data and Evidence Act – legislation that would require states to report to the Justice Department on any incident in which a law enforcement officer is involved in a shooting, and any other instance where use of force by or against a law enforcement officer or civilian results in serious bodily injury or death. This law would be a crucial step towards the accountability and oversight that the Justice Department has lacked to date. In addition, we must do more to enforce the constitutional right to equal protection of the laws by eliminating racial, religious and discriminatory profiling by changing the policies and procedures underlying the practice, including prohibiting discriminatory profiling, additional training for law enforcement, and encouraging the adoption of policies that prohibit discriminatory profiling.

  • How should the U.S. address human rights abuses suffered by religious and ethnic minorities at the hands of government and non-government actors worldwide?

Protecting persecuted religious and ethnic minorities should be a central tenet of our foreign policy. Our democracy assistance should be used to support local civil society organizations promoting religious tolerance and ethnic cohesion while exchange programs should be leveraged to bring foreign religious leaders to the United States to learn about interfaith work and tolerance. I believe we should aggressively consider the use of Global Magnitsky sanctions and other tools to put pressure on foreign government officials and individuals to end abuses. In the cases when such minorities face no choice but to flee their home nations, I have been proud to support the Lautenberg Amendment, which facilitates the resettlement of religious minorities from the former Soviet Union and Iran, and to be a cosponsor of the Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act. I believe that these legislative vehicles are vital, but more than anything represent an approach we must more broadly pursue: our nation has a unique role and responsibility to support minorities struggling for freedom and dignity around the world.

  • How should the U.S. protect LGBTI rights at home and abroad?

LGBTQ rights are human rights, whether in Kansas or Kampala, and I will fight for every person’s right to be who they are, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. First we must begin at home to reverse the Trump Administration’s broad assault on LGBTQ rights, including by allowing trans people to proudly serve in our military and reinstating protections for trans people in schools, healthcare, and more. I have been a longtime champion of the Equality Act, which would prohibit discrimination against people on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, or gender. Its passage would signal the beginning of true equality for LGBTQ Americans, for the first time ensuring equal protection under the law for every person, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Protecting LGBTQ rights must also be a key pillar of our human rights advocacy around the globe, including by expanding our resettlement of LGBTI refugees in need and passing the International Human Rights Defense Act, which would make preventing and responding to discrimination and violence against LGBTQ official U.S. policy and reinstate the special envoy for LGBTQ persons. Going further, our immediate goal should be to work bilaterally and multilaterally with countries to end the criminalization of same-sex relations, which is still illegal in nearly seventy countries.

  • How should the U.S. ensure that our foreign and domestic policies protect sexual and reproductive rights?

Attacks on women’s rights must be understood as an attack on all of our rights. I’ve unveiled a plan to protect reproductive rights if elected president. I will continue to fight to protect the constitutional right to abortion and ensure that everyone has real access to reproductive health care. That starts with nominating judges who are committed to upholding reproductive rights, passing legislation to codify the protections guaranteed by Roe v. Wade, and repealing the Hyde Amendment. As president, beginning on Day One, I’d also do more to advance reproductive rights, including creating a White House Office of Reproductive Freedom, repealing the domestic gag rule, and, internationally, I would end the global gag rule and restore funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). For more on what I would do starting on day 1, see my plan here (https://medium.com/@corybooker/how-i-will-take-immediate-action-to-protect-reproductive-rights-as-president-fd7f5d28f616).

  • How should the U.S. address the targeting, harassment, and killing of human rights defenders and journalists around the world?

The targeting and harassment of human rights defenders and journalists is deeply disturbing. When our president calls journalists “enemy of the people” and regularly casts real reporting as “fake news,” he creates a climate that helps prop up dictators around the world and endangers journalists and journalism both here at home and globally. We must embrace the important role that journalism plays in any healthy democracy and ensure human rights defenders have the space and safety to do their work. When governments do mistreat or abuse journalists and human rights defenders we must be vocal and persistent in holding them to account. The killing of Jamal Khashoggi was a wakeup call to the threats far too many journalists and dissidents face every day. I have pressed for the Trump Administration to hold the perpetrators of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder accountable through sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act and would look to expand the use of such sanctions against other officials accused of abuses against journalists and human rights defenders.

  • How should the U.S. respond to the increasing use of political repression by authoritarian regimes?

The increasing boldness of authoritarian regimes towards their opponents is among the most significant challenges for U.S. foreign policy. Through my work on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I have fought to reverse political repression by supporting greater funding for democracy assistance and publicly criticizing governments that engage in such malign behavior. We must support human rights defenders and organizations operating in authoritarian countries through tools like the expansion of the Human Rights and Democracy Fund, as well as the Lifeline Embattled CSO Assistance Fund, which provides emergency financial assistance to civil society organizations under threat or attack. More broadly, we must work bilaterally and multilaterally with other democracies to fight authoritarian repression.

  • How can the U.S. ensure compliance with and accountability for its international human rights obligations in national security operations?

America must be a moral leader in the world. Unfortunately, the Trump Administration has acted to obscure the effects of our national security operations, including ending an annual public report on civilians killed in U.S. drone strikes. We must do more to avoid these tragedies, and when they do occur, we must be more transparent, not less. We can start by creating simpler and more effective reporting mechanisms for civilian populations where our forces operate.

  • What can the U.S. do to ensure U.S. arms are not used to perpetuate human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law?

Sales of weapons should reflect the values we want to see in the world, including respect for civilian lives and schools, hospitals, and other institutions that serve non-combatants. I have been horrified by how our weapons of war have been used by Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the conflict in Yemen. The toll taken in the lives of innocent men, women, and children has been extraordinary, and must be stopped. In the Senate, I have fought alongside colleagues on both sides of the aisle to end sales to countries that have engaged in human rights violations, including the Philippines, Nigeria, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and others. Unfortunately, it is clear that the use of weapons is not being adequately monitored by the Trump Administration.

  • How should the U.S. government hold businesses accountable for human rights abuses?

Too often American companies fail to live up to their obligation to be morally and socially responsible with their business practices abroad. These practices contribute to wider corruption and harms, including regulators turning a blind eye to abusive labor practices, the illegal detention and killings of activists, and other human rights abuses. We should start with the State Department vigorously applying anti-corruption tools like Global Magnitsky sanctions against foreign officials accused of corruption and robust enforcement by the Department of Justice of violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act to help prevent corruption from facilitating human rights abuses.

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