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Julián Castro: A Presidential Candidate Taking One Of The Strongest Stands For Migrants At The Southern Border

Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro, 44, has emerged as one of the most vocal leaders when it comes to border decriminalization. Similar to other Democratic presidential hopefuls, Castro has advocated for unauthorized entry into the U.S. to be decriminalized. Under the current law, it’s a misdemeanor the first time an individual illegally crosses the border into the U.S., a crime that carries up to six months in prison. Castro and fellow Democratic candidates are calling for that misdemeanor to be a civil offense instead of a criminal offense. But Castro wants to take it one step further and would like to see criminal reentries to be decriminalized as well.

The former Housing and Urban Development (HUD) secretary during the Obama administration says that Congress should repeal the law that makes it a felony to reenter the U.S. after being deported. 

Credit: @thejasonhopkins / Twitter

Castro has long made the argument that Congress should separate immigration enforcement from the criminal justice system. One of the biggest reasons behind this stance is the way the Trump administration has used this to systematically separate migrant families. 

“I’d like to see those being treated as a civil matter,” Castro told the HuffPost. “I don’t believe in criminalizing desperation.”

It’s currently a misdemeanor for a person to illegally cross the border their first time but it becomes a felony if caught crossing two or more times. If found guilty of illegal reentry or entering illegally after being deported, a person can be punished by up to two years in prison. Sentences of up to 20 years can be handed down to those with prior crimes.

Castro feels that the current immigration laws give too much power to the White House over migrants.

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Castro saw firsthand last year the power that the Trump administration has when it comes to enforcing immigration laws. He says the separation of families at the border is an abuse of power by the White House and there has been a building hostility toward migrant communities since President Trump took office.  

“The terrible way that this administration has treated people over the last two years has prompted many of us to thoroughly think through the best way to respond to a broken immigration system and to make sure that children and families are not treated the same way in the future,” Castro told HuffPost. He says by revoking both laws criminalizing border-crossing violations would “close off every opportunity that any future administration may have to exercise such cruelty.”

Beyond just decriminalization, Castro wants to create a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants who “live, work, and raise families” in the U.S., according to his campaign’s immigration platform. Another controversial move for Castro is wanting to change Trump’s cutback in refugee admissions, stop the 287(g) agreements between ICE and local law enforcement that produces more illegal immigrant arrests, and end ICE altogether. 

Many aren’t too happy about Castro’s stance as some see it as advocating for open borders. 

Credit: @joncoopertweets / Twitter

While most of the Democratic presidential candidates have called for the decriminalization of unauthorized crossings, the idea has been lambasted by some from both the left and right. Critics reason that Castro’s proposed policy change would only attract more illegal immigration, worsening the crisis at the U.S. border.

“It annoys me to no end when these politicians start throwing out these facile solutions,” Sarah Saldaña, the former director of ICE in the Obama administration, told the  Dallas Morning News. “You have it on the books and either you exercise your prosecutorial discretion or not, but at least it’s a tool in your toolbox.”

But Castro doesn’t agree that his policies will lead to open borders or lack of law enforcement when it comes to illegal immigration. He says we already have enough enforcement at our borders with advanced technology at our disposal.

“Nobody’s talking about open borders,” Castro said last Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press. “We have 654 miles of fencing, we have thousands of personnel at the border, we have planes, we have helicopters, we have guns, we have boats, we have security cameras. …That’s just a right-wing talking point.”

READ: Julián Castro Did Not Hold Back When Democrats Debated Immigration During The First Debate

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As Republicans Move To Fill Supreme Court Seat, Julián Castro Says Democrats Should Consider Nuclear Option

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As Republicans Move To Fill Supreme Court Seat, Julián Castro Says Democrats Should Consider Nuclear Option

Gabriela Bhaskar / Getty Images

With the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, progressives are struggling to figure out their next move. Republicans have made it clear they don’t care about precedent or even following their own made up rules, and plan to attempt to fill the vacancy as quickly as possible.

Some Republicans have even gone as far as saying they’ll vote to confirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominee even if he loses the November election, in a lame duck session of Congress.

This has Democrats in overdrive trying to figure out their game plan and how they’ll respond to Republican efforts to once again steal a Supreme Court seat.

Julián Castro says that Democrats should consider packing the court if they come into power come January.

In an interview with Buzzfeed’s News O’Clock podcast, this year’s only Latino candidate for president said that Democrats should consider adding more justices to the Supreme Court if Senate Republicans rush to confirm a justice to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg. His announcement is a reversal from his stated position during the presidential campaign.

“For many of us, that wasn’t our preference, but the fact is you have Mitch McConnell not abiding by, not working in good faith under the Constitution. … If you have that kind of abuse of the system, then I think that, yeah, Democrats should be open to different ways that we can stave off draconian changes to our fundamental rights,” he said.

During last year’s presidential primaries, Castro said that he “would not pack the court” if we were elected president, but with reproductive rights, voting rights, and healthcare hanging in the balance, he now believes Democrats should consider structural reform to the court.

“When those are the stakes, and Mitch McConnell is the one who’s abused this system, then yeah, I think we need to be open to considering either adding more justices or other structural reforms that will prevent this kind of abuse in the future,” he said.

Nothing in the Constitution limits the number of justices that sit on the Supreme Court.

Credit: Sam Gateaux / Getty Images

Adding more justices to the Supreme Court, or “packing the court”, has become widely popular among progressives as they see it as a last resort to restoring equality to the court. And the only way in writing wrongs committed by Republican Senate leadership.

Obviously, one concern is that if the Democrats increase the court size when they have power, that the Republicans could expand it again when they regain power. And we would have a never ending saga.

But as the Democrats are once again outplayed and outmaneuvered by the GOP, many say it’s a risk worth taking.

Castro also warned that Biden was losing his traction with Latino voters.

Meanwhile, Castro has also expressed concern that the Biden campaign isn’t doing enough to win the support of Latino voters.

“I believe the campaign gets it in that they understand they have work to do,” Castro said, adding that he thinks that Biden will pick up Latino support by Nov. 3 because the campaign is now investing in voter registration, bilingual messaging across platforms, and tailored outreach to different Latino communities, rather than treating them as one unified voting block.

“The Latino community too often is invisible, it’s an afterthought,” said Castro, who was housing secretary under Barack Obama. “Even though it’s going to be the largest non-white voting group in 2020. I think in every way in American society … there’s this image of the Latino community as though everybody got here five minutes ago.”

Joe Biden’s campaign has “to make sure that they are doing everything they can to reach out to a community that already has one of the lowest rates of voting, that needs to be brought into the fold”, Castro said.

With 29 million eligible voters in 2018, or about 12.8% of the total, Latinos voted more than two-to-one for Democrats, according to Pew Research. That was a much lower rate than for the party’s key bloc, African Americans, who went 90%-9% for Democrats.

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With Immigration Fees Set To Increase, Advocacy Groups Are Hosting “Citizenship Weeks” To Help People Get Their Documents In On Time

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With Immigration Fees Set To Increase, Advocacy Groups Are Hosting “Citizenship Weeks” To Help People Get Their Documents In On Time

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Becoming a U.S. resident or citizen has never been an easy process. The country’s immigration system is a convoluted mess that sharply leans in favor of high-wealth individuals and under the Trump administration that is becoming more apparent than ever.

But 2020 has been an especially challenging year for immigrants seeking to complete their citizenship process.

Although it’s common for interest in naturalization to spike in the months leading up to presidential elections, the Coronavirus pandemic forced the citizenship process to a grinding halt in March. The outbreak shut offices of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) all across the country. And although many of these offices reopened in July, there is a widening backlog of applications.

Meanwhile, on October 2, looming fee increases could leave applications and citizenship out of reach for tens of thousands of immigrants, as the process becomes significantly more costly.

Many migrant advocacy groups are hosting events meant to help immigrants complete their applications before prices are set to rise.

In South Florida, the Office of New Americans (ONA) — a public-private partnership between Miami-Dade County and non-profit legal service providers — launched its second Miami Citizenship Week on Sept. 11. This 10-day event is designed to help immigrants with free legal support so participants can beat the October 2 deadline.

In addition, the event will host a mix of celebrations meant to highlight the social and economic contributions of South Florida’s large immigrant communities.

“I think in Miami we talk about how we are diverse and how we are adjacent to Latin America, but we never take a moment to celebrate immigrants and the amazing work that they do whether it’s the nurses in our hospitals, the drivers that drive our buses, small business owners,” said Krystina François, ONA’s executive director. “We need to reclaim the narrative around immigrants and around our communities because it’s what makes us great.”

However, thanks to Covid-19 restrictions, the events will all be hosted online.

Much like any other event, Covid-19 has greatly impacted this year’s “Citizenship Week.” Therefore, the event will be hosted virtually. That includes the Mega Citizenship Clinic, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 16-20. At the event, pro-bono lawyers from the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Americans for Immigrant Justice and other groups will connect with attendees one-on-one on Zoom and walk them through the process of filling out the 20-page citizenship application form. 

The clinic is open to immigrants eligible to become naturalized citizens, meaning permanent residents who have had a green card for at least five years.

Cities like Dallas are also getting in on similar events, meant to welcome new residents and citizens into the city.

Dallas’ Office of Welcoming Communities and Immigrant Affairs is hosting a series of virtual events from Sept. 12 to Sept. 20 in honor of Welcoming Week. The virtual events aim to promote Dallas’ diverse communities and to unite all residents, including immigrants and refugees.

According to the City of Dallas, this year’s theme is Creating Home Together, and it emphasizes the importance of coming together as a community to build a more inclusive city for everyone.

Participants will be able to learn about the voting process and what will be on the next ballot during the “Vontando Por Mi Familia: Enterate para que vas a votar” event. The event, hosted in partnership with Mi Familia, will be presented in Spanish.

A Council Member, Jaime Resendez, will host a virtual program on Tuesday at 11 a.m. that celebrates Latinx art and culture. The event will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Mayor Eric Johnson will read the Welcoming Week Proclamation, and the event will feature art exhibitions and performances showcasing the talents of performers and artists across Dallas.

Attendees will also have a chance to learn more about the availability of DACA and a citizenship workshop will take place where articipants will learn how to complete their N-400 application for citizenship. Volunteer immigration attorneys and accredited representatives from the Department of Justice will be there for assistance.

The events come as fees for several immigration proceedings are set to rise by dramatic amounts come October 1.

Starting on October 2, the financial barrier will grow even taller for many immigrants as fees are set to increase. The fee to apply for U.S. citizenship will increase from $640 to $1,160 if filed online, or $ 1,170 in paper filing, a more than 80% increase in cost. 

“In the middle of an economic downturn, an increase of $520 is a really big amount,” François told the Miami-Herald.

Aside from the fee increase, many non-citizen immigrants never truly felt the need to become citizens. That was until the Coronavirus pandemic hit and had many questioning their status in the country.

“There are people who up until this COVID crisis, their status as a permanent resident didn’t impact their day-to-day life … but then the pandemic has given them another reason of why it’s important to take that extra step and become a citizen, because of the additional rights and protections that are afforded to you, but also to just have a sense of security and stability in a crisis.”

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