Julian Castro's Bold Plan to Decriminalize Immigration Changed the Terms of the Debate Last Night

The former San Antonio mayor deserves credit for leading his party and perhaps the country in a better direction.


It's rare that a presidential debate accomplishes anything beyond sound and fury. But the Democratic debate last night may well prove to be a turning point in how America discusses immigration, thanks to the handling of the issue by Julian Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio. It is no secret that President Donald Trump's harsh border enforcement polices have made Democrats more  pro-immigration than ever, as I wrote recently. However, the Democratic presidential contenders have been high on high-minded rhetoric but low on actual substance. Vague generalities, after all, soothe voters while specifics invite attacks from opponents.

But Castro, the grandson of a Mexican immigrant, is an exception. A few weeks ago he released a plan called "People First" that offered a serious roadmap for decriminalizing immigration and stopping tragedies like the one involving the drowning death of Central American father Oscar Ramirez and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria. The duo died earlier this week after border agents prevented them from entering the United States to request asylum, forcing the father, who'd already traveled 2,000 miles, to try and swim across the Rio Grande to touch U.S. soil.

America allowed unfettered mobility across the southern border until 1924 when things started going south, so to speak, never to recover. That year Congress passed a sweeping law that not only imposed strict immigration quotas based on nationality, but also created a border patrol force. Five years later, Congress made unauthorized entry a civil offense. In 1952, Congress turned that civil offense into a criminal one when it enacted the Immigration and Nationality Act and included Section 1325 in it.

Castro has made eliminating Section 1325 the linchpin of his reform proposal. Why? Because Section 1325 gave President Trump the legal tools to criminalize asylum seekers and take away their children.

How? Under U.S. law, migrants can legally request asylum, as Oscar and his family were trying to do, if they present themselves at a port of entry. However, under this administration, border patrol agents have been engaging in a practice called "metering"—that Castro also wants to eliminate— which involves turning away migrants before they can reach these ports. This forces the migrants to try and enter the United States between ports. Although they can still request asylum if they succeed, the problem is that, thanks to Section 1325, entering the U.S. in this way is a federal crime.

This has massive repercussions for migrant families with kids. Courts have barred border authorities from detaining kids for more than 20 days. But because the Trump administration insists that their parents are technically criminals, it wants to keep them in detention (and potentially prison), until their asylum petitions are heard, and even beyond that. In other words, to obey the courts, the authorities need to take the kids away from their detained parents.

Trump says that if Congress does not want this to happen it has to pass a law overruling the courts and allowing kids to be kept in detention along with the parents for long periods of time, even though it would cost American taxpayers $300 per day per immigrant to do so. Castro's alternative is to scrap Section 1325 altogether, so that these parents would not be considered criminals in the first place.

This proposal is a far cry from open borders. After all, being in the country without proper authorization would remain a civil—and therefore a deportable—offense. But it is a fundamental reform that neither the Bush nor the Obama administrations thought fit to include in their "comprehensive" reform proposals.

Even though Castro's candidacy is a long shot, he has already changed the terms of the debate. Castro put Beto O' Rourke, who is also trying to fashion himself as the champion of immigrants, on the defensive on the debate stage for not jumping on board. O'Rourke insisted that Section 1325 was needed to go after human trafficking and drug trafficking. But that makes zero sense given that there are already laws on the books that target those crimes.

Four of Castro's rivals—Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, and Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan—however, threw in their lot with him on this issue. Indeed, Warren now says she'll go even further and scrap the law that makes repeat illegal entry a felony. (First time illegal entry is currently a misdemeanor.)

This is nothing short of stunning given that Democrats, historically, haven't been the amigos of immigrants. Indeed, labor union support has been crucial in passing every piece of restrictionist legislation in the country's history.

Castro deserves credit for leading his party—and perhaps the nation—in a different direction.

NEXT: No, Cory Booker, There Isn't a Study Showing That Licensing Gun Owners Cuts Gun Violence by 40 Percent

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  1. I’ve been saying it for months — the best thing about these otherwise terrible Drumpf years has been the Democratic Party’s embrace of the Koch / Reason immigration agenda. Whether Castro ends up being the nominee or not, I predict the 2020 Democratic ticket will explicitly call for open borders.


    1. That 1924 law was written by a vicious bigot to appease slack-jawed racists. I predict today’s Republicans and conservatives — including the faux libertarians — to defend it strenuously.

      Carry on, clingers. So long as the leash provided by your betters can reach, anyway.

      1. The 1924 law had Zero to do with the Southern Border, and everything to do with Southern and Eastern Europeans that were flooding big cities in the East. The West was still largely unpopulated, and there had been no net inflow across the Southern Border, as there was a state of war that existed there.

        Not that you know anything about anything, given your deficient parentage, upbringing, and lack of education….

        1. Don’t forget Kirkland’s lack of a body, what with him being a sentient jar full of the gall bladders of failed dictators.

          Fun fact: the oldest gall bladder in the jar is that of Roman Emperor Elagabalus.

          1. Interesting – I’d always assumed he was a paraplegic, what with the impotent rage and transparent overcompensation and all

            1. I assumed he was a bubble boy and years of inhaling his own fumes putrefied his brains.

            2. No, Arty is a 55 year old high school dropout and assistant sub-janitor. He works a minimum wage job cleaning up after his wealthy conservative boss. The job itself is charity for Arty, as he is useless and incompetent. Though he still feels nothing but rage, hatred, and envy towards his boss’ success.

              He rants and raves here, while being afraid to say shit in real life, even if he had a mouthful of it.

      2. Well said, Art.

        One question though — have you reconsidered your opposition to impeachment? I recall a few weeks ago you expressed a belief that impeachment wasn’t necessary since Orange Hitler would lose in 2020 anyway.

        But that was before we learned his regime built LITERAL CONCENTRATION CAMPS. Surely impeachment is warranted now? Here’s the MoveOn petition again if you’ve changed your mind.


        1. +1

          Your best work is not in the original posts but in the follow up.

          1. My favorite was one thread where Tony went like 6 replies deep before he started getting suspicious

          2. I like it when he references MoveOn when backing impeachment.

      3. As always, you are the biggest bigot in the discussion forum

      4. OBL’s tulpa replies to self.

    2. It is so good that Reason has Shikha as a writer, this way I can get idiot opinions of the left without leaving Reason.
      Is she ever right about anything???
      At least Reason embraces diversity of opinion, Shikha usually represents the opinions of socialists and leftists and they give her space, how fair minded.

  2. If decriminalizing immigration is truly a better direction, how come other countries are not jumping on that bandwagon?

    1. Well, maybe they should.


    2. Because we get Mexicans and they get —

      1. to arrest us at the border?

    3. That’s a meaningful argument either way. Most countries, for instance, are jumping/have jumped on the banning of guns bandwagon. Free speech is also more frequently restricted than here. I don’t believe either of those are good decisions. Hell, most libertarian stances are not the common stances around the globe.

      There’s arguments and discussion for many sides of this debate, but “if it’s so good why aren’t other’s doing it” is not indicative of much.

      1. Haha, great minds think alike, BUCS.

        1. Sure, but it’s weird that you’d stick your nose into their business

      2. half the planet would be democratic socialist paraisos

      3. I think it’s a fair question to ask. The reason you give free speech as an example of something we’re exceptional in giving as a right is because we all agree that it’s something that is a human right and is not the business of government to restrict. Whereas borders are, by definition, the business of government to restrict. Anarchists are the only honest people who are totally open borders.

        1. Yup. And they’re also idiots! Although the instances are far less than the BS we put up with in the world today, the fact is that restricting some freedoms that do not violate the NAP makes the world (or your corner of it) a far better place to live. For instance, 65 year old men should not be allowed to stand in a kindergarten playground beating off staring at the children… Even though it technically doesn’t violate the NAP.

      4. “but “if it’s so good why aren’t other’s doing it” is not indicative of much.”

        It is when the countries who extoll the overall goodness still flatly refuse to engage in the behavior.

    4. If gun ownership is such a fantastic right, how come other countries are not writing their own 2nd Amendment?

      1. The USA is the only country with a constitutionally protected right to free speech. Is free speech bad?

        Appeals to popularity are a logical fallacy.

      2. Because politicians hate it when the peasants can defend themselves.

        As someone who tends to be skeptical of politicians, how can you trust them on the open border issue? I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that these guys are scheming assholes on every other issue, on this issue their hearts are pure as gold.

        1. No, there’s one other issue where their motives are as pure as gold – free trade… especially with China

      3. There is a discernable difference. I wonder if you can find it?

        (hint: stated VS revealed)

  3. Shikha wrote this? I thought it was from OBL.

    1. has anyone ever seen them in the same room?

  4. 5 minutes before this in the debate they were all bitching about the lack of beds available (even though iys the dems who keep blocking border funding) and then Castro suggested this.

    …so what happens to these people while they wait for the civil trials?

  5. America allowed unfettered mobility across the southern border until 1924…

    Hold the phone!

    Did National Sovereignty work differently back then?

    1. Ya know, other than sending Black Jack Pershing and the US Army to stop it…..

      1. Also of note, before 1924, you could also store oil in a pit dug in the ground, you could dump hazardous waste directly into streams, and you could be sterilized, put into a narcotic or even insulin shock coma, have all your teeth pulled, or be manually raped by a physician if your spouse or family thought you were oversexed, overanxious, or just too disagreeable.

        Viva la Era Progressivo!

    2. You’re assuming Shikha thinks we’re a sovereign nation to begin with. If she was consistently an anarchist, I’d giver her a pass, but she’s most definitely not. If anyone ever needed to read some Hans Hoppe, it’s her.

      1. There was no southern border immigration in the early 20th century

        1. Lest you think it was all evil Confederate racists fault…

    3. IMO the biggest reason people didn’t worry about mass migration back then is because

      1. Undesirables KNEW that countries would hold no punches if they actually didn’t want them coming in. They would just fucking shoot you and not give it a second thought.

      2. Long distance travel was simply harder and more expensive back then. This naturally limited the ability of people to travel.

      It’s not that we didn’t get too many sketchy folks during some periods, but when we did we enacted laws to deal with it. Mexicans weren’t coming in in large enough numbers to care about it, so we didn’t bother to address it. If they had been, they would have harshly dealt with it if they saw the need.

  6. >>>forcing the father … to try and swim across the Rio Grande


    1. Migrants are like spawning salmon, they have no real agency. They must get to their destination or perish. Preventing them from accomplishing their goal is the same as shooting them.

      1. “[Not actively aiding them to] accomplish their goal is the same as shooting them.”

  7. Saying you want to ban immigration because of human trafficking is like arguing to ban computers because you don’t like cheese. The two are completely unrelated.

    1. Little early to be high isn’t it?

    2. And human traficking comes from illegal immigration. Banning legal immigration would do nothing to stop it. Banning legal immigration while leaving the southerborder completely open is insane.

    3. But I don’t like cheese… and I support human trafficking… so that mean…

      Never mind, thinking is too hard. I’ll just vote the party ticket.

  8. It looks to me like Gabbard is easily the biggest threat to Trump. She is the only candidate who has any credibility on nonintervention. She has been consistent on that. The rest of them would bring back the same crew Obama had and be every bit or more interventionist. And the voters know that. Trump hasn’t started any new wars but he hasn’t ended any either. That would give Gabbard an issue to run on other than “I am here to take your guns, your 401K, and your health insurance.

    Also, Gabbard isn’t burn victim ugly, and fair or not looks matter and especially for women, and she seems like a normal person you could stand to be around. The rest of them sound like they are somewhere on the Autism spectrum. Gabbard is the only Dem candidate who strikes me as at all likable and that is essential to winning the Presidency.

    The fact that the Dem establishment is now backing Warren is just dumbfounding. Warren is the one candidate on earth who manages to more grating and less appealing than Hillary. Hillary was your ex mother in law. Warren is the nasty school principle you hated in the 8th grade. She is just an unpleasent, nasty woman. No way is the country going to vote her into office absent Trump strarting three wars and the economy imploding.

    1. Even the most low IQ voters can see that open borders and free everything can’t coexist. And since all these candidates take turns shouting about how free everything would be if they were elected, it seems to be the winner will be the candidate that is able to address the reality of open borders.

      Unless of course you hate the US and wouldn’t care if it collapsed on itself (Shikha)

      1. The Dems seem to have gone full retard. They used to lie and at least pretend they wanted to secure the border. Now they have despensed with even that.

        1. Despite all the help and cronyist behaviors between the democrats and big tech, they’ve done a terrible job erasing all the clips of democrats being realistic about open borders.

          I’m sure that’s coming, they’re already taking measures to erase the criminal behavior involved with facebook helping Obama getting elected.

    2. I guarantee in a Warren vs. Drumpf election, Warren would get 320+ Electoral Votes and win the popular vote by at least 5 percentage points.


      1. dude share your drugs.

    3. Disagree. I think the cult that her family is a part of will sink her.

      Cute though, which counts for the electorate. Maybe a VP slot, but more likely, just gaining exposure for a 2024 run.

      The guy that scares the dogshit out of me is Castro. Contra Ken in another thread, he’s not a socialist. He is a race-baiting—his mother was one of the founders of La Raza—Communist, and I don’t throw that label around lightly. If Hispanics in this country unify, and see this guy as their Obama, along with guilty white liberals as a way to expiate any feelings of anti-Hispanic racism, he easily could win.

      Despite being to the left of Sanders.

      1. He’s like 5’4″ so at least we have that going against him

        1. Of course, none of that will deter “people” like chemjeff from idolizing him

    4. No way is the country going to vote her into office absent Trump starting three wars and the economy imploding.

      And this is why it was such a good idea for Trump to call off any tit for tat air strike on Iran. The sanctions are kicking their ass; why let them paint themselves as lovable underdogs by bombing them? Keep the sanctions on them until Iran demonstrates for once and all time that they will not and cannot attempt to build nuclear weapons.

      Now, if Iran raises their provocations, and goes full retard with something like actually sinking a carrier, or worse, letting Hez off the leash in CONUS on things like shopping malls and schools, then go bomb the shit out of them, and try to kill their leadership. But tit for tat strikes on SAM sites and the like are the definition of a “small injury” that either Machiavelli or Sun Tzu warned not to do to one’s enemy.

  9. So the Democratic platform seems to be that they are going to completely disarm you while opening the border to some of the most violent societies on earth. Then as an encore they are going to outlaw private health insurance and institute a system where anyone who walks across the border gets the same treatment as native citizens do. And the natives will be paying taxes to support this as well as pay of the student loans of the snowflake sons and daughters of the upper middle class.

    That about cover it?

  10. Human history has been driven by mass migrations.
    Most notably, initial migration from Africa to the North and East, steppe tribes (aka hordes) from Russia south into China and West into Europe, Nordic peoples East into Eurasia and South into Europe, from the Eurasian steppes and plains South into the Middle East and Central Asia and Western and Southern Europe,
    then finally European migration to North America.
    These patterns were followed for centuries, varying in intensity of violence but never peaceful. Overall, native populations and cultures were either absorbed or outright replaced by the migrants/invaders.
    Nothing evil about it – that’s just the way the world works. It’s physics.
    Mass migration will result in the destination population being eradicated.
    Ask the Neanderthals, Indians, aborigines, etc. That is, if you manage to find any.

    1. That is indeed the way the world has worked, for those too weak and ineffectual to resist the hordes. Unlike, say, Charles the Hammer. Or the Romans, who built a wall for the Britons, or the Han, who built a great wall themselves.
      Good luck trying to explain the “not evil” part to all those raped, pillaged, looted, and genocided.

      1. To steal a line:
        I’m a believer in Good and Bad, not Good and Evil.
        I don’t begrudge anyone their Evil, but if their Good is my Bad, they’re my enemy.
        Woe to the conquered.

      2. That’s the thing that infuriates me… The western would could EASILY protect itself and continue to survive and thrive… But thanks to all the brainwashing, in the USA 1/3 of European origins people support the destruction of the society their ancestors fought and died to create. It’s just mind boggling. I wouldn’t mind fighting a losing war to protect our civilization, but that so many are TRYING to destroy themselves just boggles the mind.

        Don’t people know what it’s like to be a fucking minority??? It SUCKS. And whites will be a HATED minority because of their success in life, just like the Jews. I don’t want to become a “Jew” in the land my ancestors turned into the most successful nation in the history of the world.

  11. Julian Castro supports the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. That makes Julian Castro a socialist. He can get in line to suck my libertarian capitalist dick like all the other socialist scumbags.

  12. So since libertarians support contracts and individual action, should libertarians who support unrestricted immigration voluntarily sign up to guarantee that they’ll provide housing, food, health care, education, and job training for a certain number of immigrants?

    Seems like if they’re not willing to get some skin in the game to support their position, they’re as hypocritical as the liberals who expect the taxpayers to support their immigration policy.

    1. Same could be said of the liberals. That’s why trump saying hed just bus all the illegals to sanctuary cities was great.

      My father wants to take it a step further and drive them straight to Beverly hills lmao

      1. I wish he had really done that… It would help drive the point home how bad an idea it is to let in so many sketchy, low education people.

    2. All rights come from property rights. Being a Libertarian does not require an individual to support open borders, since what we are discussing is essentially trespassing.

  13. Decriminalize Immigration

    Since when has immigration been a criminal offense? See what happens when ideology replaces reality? You become unable to speak accurately because your only concern is political ramifications rather than reality.

    This proposal is a far cry from open borders. After all, being in the country without proper authorization would remain a civil—and therefore a deportable—offense.

    We don’t even deport people guilty of DUIs but we’re supposed to believe we’ll deport them for nothing? Of course this is open borders as is referring to illegal aliens as immigrants in the first place.

    It’s not just that you’re lying about what you want that’s so offensive, it’s that you’re so unbelievably stupid in how you do it.

    1. We’re supposed to be impressed by what they say because they’re journalists.

  14. I don’t think the US is quite ready for a President Castro. Because racism

    1. Or because he’s an idiot… I seem to recall 2 Hispanics that are slightly less insane being front runners in a certain primary a few years back…

  15. Julian Castro is a La Razist.

  16. There is an economic reality that I don’t see open border advocates understanding. In a free flow of population, people will gravitate to the location that provides the most benefits with the least amount of cost. The government can not raise taxes from enough working people to cover the money passed out to the lowest common denominator of people drifting into the company. The US can not confiscate and redistribute enough wealth to cover the benefits and costs for anyone who wants to wander across the border. No racial animus. There jsut isn’t enough money to pay benefits to everyone in the world who can beg, borrow, walk across the border.

    1. Yup. As a post industrial economy, we just don’t have enough jobs for uneducated people either. It’s all a farce.

  17. Julian Castro: A Radical Revealed..
    Indeed, he, along with his twin, Joaquin, currently running for Congress, learned their politics on their mother’s knee and in the streets of San Antonio. Their mother, Rosie helped found a radical, anti-white, socialist Chicano party called La Raza Unida (literally “The Race United”) that sought to create a separate country–Aztlan–in the Southwest. Today she helps manage her sons’ political careers, after a storied career of her own as a community activist and a stint as San Antonio Housing Authority ombudsman. Castro wrote fondly of those early days and basked in the slogans of the day. “‘Viva La Raza!’ ‘Black and Brown United!’ ‘Accept me for who I am–Chicano.’ These and many other powerful slogans rang in my ears like war cries.” These war cries, Castro believes, advanced the interests of their political community.

  18. It will not pass. There is still a healthy hatred for the foreigner in this flailing country. Libertarianism at its peak; kill the competition whilst you can. Or let them drawn if they can’t swim and try to cross a river; try but don’t come to complain if you fail. These particularly “a propos” remarks aside, allowing free immigration is simply inviting the State in your life. Because most of them will be a charge to the society and we are not even in a recession now. I mean Brazil or Mexico has all the immigrant profiles one may want but I can’t observe that it is an asset to these countries. They are even happy to send them here. When the State will be overwhelmed with the burden, it will come after you. It never fails.

  19. If the powers that be really wanted to end drug trafficking they’d legalize the damn drugs and let duly licensed, regulated, and taxed businesses take over. But then they’d lose their go-to excuse for practically every violation of human, civil, and constitutional rights, their go-to excuse for cutting social programs, their go-to excuse for expanding and militarizing police, their go-to excuse for sticking their noses in every aspect of our lives.

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