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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. 

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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. 

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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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