AUSTIN (KXAN) — A 90-year old law and its consequences are getting a second look thanks to a televised national debate and a presidential candidate from Texas.
Section 1325 of the Immigration and Nationality Act makes crossing the border anywhere besides a point of entry a crime. Former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro confronted fellow Texan Beto O’Rourke over the issue; getting most of the candidates on the second night of the debate to agree with him.
The Trump administration used the law as a legal justification for its controversial “zero tolerance” policy.
1325 became law in 1929; when the country was much different than today.
America’s immigration policy was much different in the 1920s: we had a strict quota system only allowing so many people from particular countries. Most ports of entry were on the coasts because people came from Europe and Asia. The countries in this hemisphere were exempt because southwestern states needed farm workers.
That changed after the Mexican Revolution and the religious crackdowns that followed there. People came to America as this country saw a resurgence in racism and mistrust in immigrants – Catholic immigrants in particular.
Creating illegal immigration
In 1924, Congress created the U.S. Border Patrol. Then, in 1929, a Democratic Senator from the former Confederacy – Coleman Blease – passed section 1325, making illegal entry a crime. The term “illegal immigrant” was born.
Around a decade later, the country stopped enforcing it as it entered World War 2; the country needed guns, tanks, planes, and people to build them. When the war ended, Americans liked the influx of labor and Congress created “guest worker programs” with the understanding that workers would come to America and then leave.
But this too changed.
After 9/11, President Bush created the Department of Homeland Security and began enforcing section 1325 again. Violence in Mexico returned. Year after year, the Bush and Obama Administrations prosecuted more and more immigrants. The public became more critical of immigration and crime associated with it.
Then in 2018 the Trump Administration announced the law would be enforced – every time.
Separating families at the border
The key to the outrage, the protests, the lawsuits, is one word: “arrested.”
When you are arrested, you can’t take your kids to jail with you.
So, when the parents were arrested, the children went under the Office of Refugee Resettlement. A consequence of enforcing Section 1325 made separating children from parents, part of U.S. Policy.
What if we repealed 1325? Immigration attorney Karen Crawford told KXAN not much would change because deportation is not a criminal issue, it’s a civil issue. People not authorized to be here could still get deported.
“We wouldn’t notice. There’s still removal proceedings. Everybody who comes to the border would still be coming through immigration inspection, would still be going through proceedings. Either within the border patrol processes that they have or referred into immigration court. So all of that would stay the same,” said Crawford.
President Trump uses this idea to say Democrats want “open borders” KXAN asked Castro that very thing earlier this year.
“Open borders is just a Republican talking point,” Castro said.
It’s a talking point that resonates with a lot of people. Border Security is the number one issue in Texas for sure and many people in this country want crossing the border to be a crime.
“One of the things we see when we’re trying to discuss immigration issues is people just shut down and say but it’s illegal. Right. So if you took away that part of it that’s illegal. Then maybe you could have more of a discussion about how to solve the problem. To say, it’s illegal period. It’s more than that. Even if you’re processed for a crime, you still have to deal with the civil side of this and what are you going to do. If you just shut the door and say it’s illegal so we’re not going to talk about it… you’re not going to have any solutions,” said Crawford.