AUSTIN (Nexstar) – President Donald Trump’s visit to San Antonio turned a spotlight on presidential candidate and former San Antonio mayor Julián Castro. He held a rally of his own in the Alamo City to counter President Trump’s immigration views and to highlight his own proposals for the border and beyond.
Castro spoke to politics reporter Phil Prazan about his immigration plan.
CASTRO: We want to choose compassion, not cruelty, when it comes to immigrants. This president has tried to get us to believe that somehow we can only have a border that’s secure if we are cruel to little children and their parents. I believe that we have a border that is more secure than it’s ever been, and instead of choosing cruelty, we should choose compassion.
PRAZAN: Is the overall message that you’re sending that we need to accept that there are going to be people who want to come here and we need to stop trying to stop them.
CASTRO: No. We need to always maintain a secure border. And we have a border that is secure right now. A lot of personnel down there. We have 654 miles of fencing. But what we don’t need to do is to be cruel to children and to families. We can choose compassion. So, I would get rid of that Muslim travel ban. I would not build the wall. Instead, I would invest those resources in making sure that our ports of entry are as secure as possible so that we can catch drug trafficking and human trafficking. And, I would strike up a stronger partnership with those Central American countries that people are coming from, so that people can find safety and opportunity at home and not have to come to the United States. That’s the smart, long-term way to handle this.
PRAZAN: When you rolled out your plan, people seemed to gravitate to the decriminalization part of it, including a Republican Congressman, Dan Crenshaw, who would just say ‘Dems are the party of open borders, period.’ In this campaign, you’re going to get a lot of that.
CASTRO: Open borders is just a Republican talking point. We have border that includes 654 miles of fencing, thousands of personnel, we have laws that deal with immigration. What I believe is that we can maintain a secure border and also be compassionate.
PRAZAN: When it comes to what the process would look like under your immigration plan, you want to split up ICE. So, what would those other agencies be doing in helping people through the process?
CASTRO: We’re still, of course, going to have immigration enforcement. We’re always going to have enforcement. But that enforcement, I believe, would be more effective if we put those enforcement activities into the Department of Justice and change the culture of ICE.
PRAZAN: So kids would go to school, people would get jobs, and they’d have to just go to their court dates at the appointed time?
CASTRO: Yeah, and the fact is that in this country from the late 1920s until about 2004 even though we had a law that made it a crime to cross the border, we actually enforced that as a civil penalty, not a criminal one. Many of the problems we have today is because we’ve prosecuted these as criminal offenses. That’s why you have family detention the way you do. That’s why you have such a backlog in our system and part of this chaos that’s been created at the border.
PRAZAN: So, of course, the diplomatic relationships and working on the corruption and the violence in Central America. But what other things do those countries need that we can help with?
CASTRO: These countries, they lack safety. So we can help ensure that these countries are safer. They also lack job opportunities. So, we need to make sure in a mutually benificial way, that the United States benefits from as well, that people in these countries can find more job opportunities so that they can stay in their home country, instead of having to come over here.
PRAZAN: I could see a skeptical person seeing this and say, ‘I don’t like paying taxes to my government, let alone another one.’ Do you think that that is going to be a big problem?
CASTRO: We should invest in foreign aid when there’s going to be a mutual benefit. And the benefit that we’re getting here is that this is going to help control the flow of people through the southern border, and so the United States will benefit.