Booker: ‘I Had a Lot of Problems With Obama Policies on Immigration and Family Detention’

Democratic Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.) said Thursday that he took issue with the Obama administration's policy of detaining families at the U.S. border when Barack Obama was president.

MSNBC host Katy Tur asked Booker whether he should have done anything differently during the Obama years to prevent migrant families from being separated at the border. In response, the senator highlighted how he opposed some of Obama's border-enforcement policies, noting that he wrote letters to try to stop family detention at the time.

"I had a lot of problems with Obama policies on immigration and family detention then," he said. "Reached out to the administration, wrote letters directly to the president, wrote letters to [former Attorney General] Eric Holder that a lot of the things that we were doing even then to me were a violation of our values and our ideals."

Booker said when families were separated under the Obama administration, that was in violation of American values. During the Obama years, Booker wrote various letters to Obama and administration officials about family detention.

In a January 2016 letter, Booker and other Democratic senators expressed "serious reservations" with the Department of Homeland Security's "targeted enforcement operations against mothers and children from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala."

In a June 2015 letter to the same department, Booker and other Democratic senators said "the prolonged detention of asylum-seeking mothers and children who pose no flight risk or danger to the community is unacceptable and goes against our most fundamental values."

On Thursday, Booker told Tur that Obama's policies "didn't reflect who we are."

"We saw those awful pictures, even in those days, of children in lockup facilities that didn't reflect who we are," Booker said.

Booker lambasted President Donald Trump for having "no plan" and violating the dignity of those crossing the border, despite the executive order Trump signed to keep families together while their cases are processed. He said Trump's actions are "god-awful," which is in keeping with his other statements condemning Trump's border-enforcement policies.

Booker has recently focused his message on immigration, targeting the Trump administration for opprobrium.

The senator's harsh words contrast with his less-public denunciations of the Obama administration's enforcement tactics. He did not appear to tweet any criticisms of Obama on immigration, and he tended to hedge his criticism in public statements by saying Republicans were unwilling compromise.

In a 2014 statement about an Obama executive order, Booker said "families are being separated" but commended the president's efforts to improve the situation.

"I am encouraged by President Obama's remarks tonight on immigration reform. This is an important first step and more needs to be done," Booker said. "At a time of great crisis in our country, when families are being separated, our nation is losing revenue, and we have an immigration policy that by just about everyone's account is failing to accomplish our common goals, we must implement a comprehensive strategy that secures our border and strengthens our economy."