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Julian Castro Is Running For President On A Platform Of Giving A Pathway To Citizenship For 11 Million People

Julián Castro became the first Democratic presidential hopeful to reveal his immigration plan. The former mayor of San Antonio and secretary of Housing and Urban Development released his immigration platform on April 2 in what he calls his “People First” immigration policy. While many in the Democratic field have called for immigrant protection from deportation under DACA, Temporary Protected Status, and Deferred Enforced Departure programs, Castro’s proposal goes deeper. Here’s what you should know about his immigration policy.

Castro wants to make it a civil violation, instead of a misdemeanor crime, to cross the border without legal permission.

Castro proposes to repeal the provision of U.S. law that makes “illegal entry” into the US a federal crime, which has been a law since 1929 but has only been routinely enforced in the 21st century. The law got new life under the George W. Bush administration, leading to a shift to criminalization of immigration policy.

Basically, under Castro’s policy, an immigrant crossing into the U.S. without papers — whether they were was seeking asylum or coming in for some other reason — would not be committing a federal crime. If the individual did’t quality for asylum , they would be then be deported.

“The truth is, immigrants seeking refuge in our country aren’t a threat to national security,” Castro wrote in a Medium post outlining his plan. “Migration shouldn’t be a criminal justice issue. It’s time to end this draconian policy and return to treating immigration as a civil — not a criminal — issue.”

There is also a plan to overhaul the immigration system.

Castro’s new policy isn’t just focused on the U.S. border. He is calling for the government to get out of the business of routine immigration enforcement. He plans to take on the recent movement to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency in charge of enforcing immigration laws. Castro wants to see the agency change its tactics from routine arrests and detention to rather enforcing more serious crimes and threats to national security.

He also wants to see immigration courts be removed from the U.S. attorney general’s authority. Currently, the courts are under the Department of Justice which means the attorney general has much power to regulate certain policies and set precedent. This was obvious when former attorney general Jeff Sessions was leading family separation policy efforts last summer.

Castro wants to create a pathway to full and equal citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people living in the country.

Castro has a broad vision of what he believes will benefit the U.S. long term when it comes to immigration. The number of immigrants waiting to gain full U.S. citizenship keeps growing and, in the last year, these figures have only climbed.

To help with this, Castro plans on getting rid of the three- and 10-year bars placed on the spouse of a U.S. citizen getting a green card for years if they lived in the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant.

“We need a pathway to full and equal citizenship for the 11 million people living here peacefully, and contributing to our culture and our economy,” Castro wrote. “We must protect Dreamers and their parents, and folks under protected status who fled natural disasters, persecution, or violence. We need to revamp the visa system and end the backlog of people who are waiting to reunite with their families.”

He also plans to help with the increasing number of Central American Refugees coming to the U.S.

Castro is “calling for a 21st century Marshall Plan for Central America,” that will support countries that are major sources migration in the U.S. The proposed plan calls for greater diplomacy in these regions and economic development that will enable people in those countries to “build a life in their communities rather than make a dangerous journey leaving their homes.”

This includes expanding ports of entry to make it easier for people to seek asylum without crossing illegally, supporting shelters and humane care for immigrant families, and expanding access to counsel for asylum seekers. 

While there are still some questions and concerns for Castro’s immigration policy, it’s a start in the right direction. Castro has been the only candidate to lay out a comprehensive immigration policy that is challenging our current system in place. The immigration plan has been met with a positive reaction so far and that will be key if Castro is going to be a major player in the 2020 race.

Read: Trump Wants To Release Detained Immigrants Into Sanctuary Cities And Democrats Are Demanding Answers On The Controversial Plan

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