Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro said, if elected, he would immediately put an end to a program that has brought relief to the U.S. immigration system, in a sit-down interview published Friday.
“Immediately, I would issue an executive order ending the Migrant Protection Protocol, or Remain in Mexico policy,” Castro said to two undecided Democratic voters in an interview NPR hosted. “It’s a disaster of a policy. It flies in the face of the way the United States has honored asylum claims in the past.”
“I would actually go back to how we used to do this, which was more effective,” he continued.
Migrant Protection Protocols — which is also frequently referred to as “Remain in Mexico” — is a program the Trump administration launched that calls on migrants who seek asylum at the southern border to wait in Mexico while their cases are processed in the U.S. immigration court system.
There is currently a backlog of over 1 million active cases within the immigration court system, putting an inordinate amount of pressure on judges and government resources as the administration tries to deal with the record number of migrant families crossing the border. A significant number of migrants who claim asylum and authorities release into the interior of the U.S. don’t show up to their court hearing.
Keeping migrants in Mexico as they wait for their claims to be adjudicated reduces fraud and brings relief to the court system, admonition officials argue. Authorities have sent tens of thousands of migrants back to Mexico since January, and the government has expanded the program.
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan in late September credited the program for helping eliminate a major incentive for illegal migrants.
However, like other critics of immigration enforcement, Castro said the program is forcing migrants to live in squalid and dangerous conditions.
“The first thing we got to do is end this Remain in Mexico policy that is subjecting people who are already desperate to beatings, and extortion, and to drug cartels that are kidnapping them, and then getting money from their relatives in Central America,” Castro continued during the NPR interview. (RELATED: ACLU Sues To Make Trump Administration Pay Migrant Families Separated At Border)
Since entering the Democratic presidential contest, Castro has positioned himself to the left of most of the other contenders on the issue of immigration. The former Housing and Urban Development secretary has not only called for the decriminalization of illegal border entry, but also for the decriminalization of border reentry, something which is currently a felony under U.S. law. Castro also supports a bill his twin brother, Texas Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro, introduced in July to remove the words “illegal” and “alien” from the government’s legal code.
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