Biden And Castro Spar Over Border Decriminalization

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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Former Vice President Joe Biden and Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro traded barbs over whether to decriminalize illegal immigration into the U.S.

During Wednesday night’s Democratic presidential debate, Castro and Biden stood at opposite ends on border decriminalization. The back-and-forth began when Castro, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary under the Obama administration, argued the federal government should repeal section 1325 of the Immigration Nationality Act, the law that makes such an action a criminal offense.

“‘Open borders’ is a right-wing talking point, and, frankly, I’m disappointed that some folks, including some folks on this stage, have taken the bait,” Castro said. “My immigration plan would also make sure that we put undocumented immigrants who haven’t committed a serious crime on a pathway to citizenship.”


Castro, who previously served as the mayor of San Antonio, Texas, before joining the Obama administration as HUD secretary, has made left-wing immigration reform a hallmark issue on his presidential campaign.

When asked about the historically high rate of deportations that took place under the Obama administration, Biden pointed out that Castro never complained when he served under their White House.

“I found that Julian — excuse me, the Secretary — we sat together [in] many meetings. I never heard him talk about any of this when he was the secretary,” Biden said. His answer was then interrupted by a protester screaming out “Three million deportations!” a reference to the three million deportations that took place during the Obama era.

“With regard to the Secretary’s point,” Biden continued after the heckling subsided. “What do you say to all those people around the world who, in fact, want the same thing — to come to the United States and make their case. They have to wait in line… If you cross the border illegally, you should be sent back — it’s a crime.”

Castro returned fire by suggesting the vice president had not “learned from the past,” and he doubled down on his view that border decriminalization was necessary.


“The only way that we are going to guarantee that these kinds of family separations don’t happen in the future is that we need to repeal this law. There’s still going to be consequences if somebody crosses the border — it’s a civil action,” Castro continued, adding that the U.S. still has walls, personnel, planes and boats that guard the border.

The Texas Democrat then said politicians need to have “guts” on the immigration issue. (RELATED: Democratic Candidate Asked Why He’s ‘Hypercritical’ Of Trump Immigration Policies He Once Praised Under Obama)

“I have guts enough to say his plan doesn’t make sense,” Biden said in response. “The fact of the matter is that, in fact, when people cross the border illegally, it is illegal to do it unless they’re seeking asylum. People should have to get in line. That’s the problem.”

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