Castro leans in to immigration differences with President Trump


San Antonio (KXAN) – Metaphorically brushing off criticism of “open borders,” presidential prospect Julián Castro proposes relaxing strict enforcement measures at the US-Mexico border, calling for “compassion over cruelty” in a new immigration plan rolled out days before the spotlight comes to him and President Trump in San Antonio.

President Trump turned a spotlight on San Antonio Wednesday with a fundraising trip, stopping briefly in San Antonio. Castro helped organize and spoke during the evening at a “People First Rally” opposing the President’s visit, calling the current administration’s immigration policy an “absolute failure.” 

“We’re here today because we choose people first,” said Castro in front of a crowd of a few hundred. 

In the days before, the former Mayor and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development — and only Latino in the 2020 Presidential contest — laid out the most detailed immigration plan out of all the candidates trying to oust Trump. 

When asked, Castro noticed that other candidates lack a detailed plan. 

“Why wouldn’t every candidate have an immigration plan?” he asked, “I’m not afraid.” 

While he didn’t offer any specific numbers on staff or resources, his policy goals would do more than reverse current American policy.

Immigration remains to be front and center in headlines over record-breaking number of families seeking to come over the US-Mexico border and the 2020 Presidential election. In March so far, more than 50,000 families have met border patrol at the southern border, the most since the early 2000s.

Castro’s plan echoes commonplace ideas – like halting construction on a border wall and ending what’s become known as an immigration ban for major Muslim countries – but then adds new measures no candidate so far has so publicly embraced: decriminalizing crossing the border, setting up an independent immigration court, and a 21st Century Marshall Plan-esque idea to help rebuild central American countries. 

“What’s clear is that this President’s approach treating immigrants cruelly has failed. It hasn’t deterred more families from coming from Central American. I believe we should instead choose compassion,” said Castro in an interview with KXAN.

Republicans wanting more border enforcement criticized the plan.

“Great idea, Castro, way to look out for American citizens. Sigh,” wrote Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw of Houston. “Dems are the party of open borders. Period. The crisis at our border is being described as in a “free fall”. We need to fix it, not give up.”

In response, Castro told KXAN, “Open borders’ is just a Republican talking point. We have a border that includes 654 miles of fencing, thousands of personnel, we have laws that deal with immigration but I believe we can maintain a secure border and also be compassionate.” 

Wednesday’s rally came hours after Trump went to a fundraising event in the Alamo Heights neighborhood of San Antonio. There, he signed two executive order unrelated to immigration but definitely spoke to the press about it.

“Who the hell can live like this?” said President Trump to reporters at the fundraiser, while talking about migrants trying to come to Texas. 

Earlier this week, President Trump’s Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen resigned amid the border confusion. Then, the President forced out several other key high ranking members of his administration. 

His immigration roll-out, Presidential Trump’s arrival in San Antonio, and his “People First Rally” comes as Castro fights for space in the 2020 race; hovering around one percent in the polls and falling short of frontrunners in fundraising numbers and donor numbers.

Castro would decriminalize border crossing by making it a civil offense, repealing Section 1325 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The law has been on the books for years but was not vigorously enforced until recently.

The act came under a spotlight when the Trump Administration rolled out its “zero tolerance” policy, arresting and charging criminally everyone crossing illegally – separating children from parents along the way because children cannot join alleged criminals in jail. Trump has since reversed major parts of that policy after public pressure but continues to detain and charge many people not seeking asylum.

Castro would also dismantle major enforcement aspects of current policy — ending 287 (g) agreements that allow local police officers — such as Williamson County deputies — from participating in immigration enforcement actions, taking many job duties of Immigration and Customs Enforcement out from under the Department of Homeland Security and putting them under the Department of Justice.

The call for the “21st Century Marshall Plan”, the name inspired by the original Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after WWII, would increase the foreign aid and resources the United States currently sends to Central American countries: Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador — countries President Trump recently pulled aid from.

When asked in an interview, Castro tells KXAN rebuilding schools, roads, and security and police forces in Central American countries would be “mutually beneficial” to people living there and America.

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