Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro on Thursday rebuffed criticism from former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson of Castro’s proposal to decriminalize unauthorized border crossings.
Castro said that Johnson’s suggestion that doing so would be tantamount to having open borders echoed a “right-wing talking point.”
Asked during a presidential candidate town hall hosted by the League of United Latin American Citizens what he thought of Johnson’s so-called friendly fire, Castro said the criticism was “obviously not friendly.”
The former San Antonio mayor also took a shot at two of his rivals in the Democratic presidential primary, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Trump finalizing executive order calling on police to use ‘force with compassion’ The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook MORE and former Rep. Beto O’RourkeBeto O’RourkeBiden will help close out Texas Democrats’ virtual convention: report O’Rourke on Texas reopening: ‘Dangerous, dumb and weak’ Parties gear up for battle over Texas state House MORE (D-Texas), who have come out against making illegal border crossings a civil violation rather than a criminal offense.
“I would say that Secretary Johnson is wrong, Vice President Biden is wrong on this and Congressman O’Rourke is wrong on this,” Castro said.
Castro noted that “until about 2004, we treated crossing the border as a civil violation, not a criminal violation,” and said by conflating that with the notion of open borders, Johnson was repeating a prominent political argument on the right.
“Secretary Johnson has suggested somehow that people will take that as open borders. Open borders are a right-wing talking point,” he said, pointing to current enforcement mechanisms on the U.S. southern border, like existing fencing and the presence of Border Patrol agents.
He also argued that migrants crossing the border without permission often do so with the intention of presenting themselves to Border Patrol and law enforcement officials.
“They want to present themselves to our border officials,” Castro said. “It makes no sense to make policy based out of fear, political fear.”
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