As Donald Trump threatens to “close” the US-Mexico border, one of the Democrats seeking to run against him in 2020 is coming out with the primary’s first immigration proposal — one that would dramatically reduce immigration enforcement.
Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro, a former mayor of San Antonio and secretary of housing and urban development, released an immigration platform on Tuesday morning, along with a Medium post outlining what the Castro campaign calls its “People First” immigration policy.
So far, the many Democrats vying for the 2020 presidential nomination have stayed in pretty safe territory on immigration, promising to support bills that would provide a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants living in the US — and especially groups that are at risk of losing legal protections under the Trump administration, like immigrants protected from deportation under the DACA, Temporary Protected Status, and Deferred Enforced Departure programs.
Castro’s proposal promises those things, as well as reversals of signature Trump policies like the travel ban and the reduction in refugee resettlement. But it goes much further than that in dismantling immigration enforcement.
In many ways, it seeks to unravel the post-9/11 immigration enforcement system — which has made it legally riskier than ever to live in the US as an unauthorized immigrant.
Most notably, Castro proposes to repeal the provision of US law that makes “illegal entry” into the US a federal crime, which has been on the books since 1929 but has only been routinely enforced in the 21st century. Prosecuting illegal entry — often referred to by “1325,” the relevant section of Chapter 8 of the US Code — gave the Trump administration the power to separate thousands of families in 2018, by referring parents for criminal prosecution.
“The fact that over the last several years this system has been weaponized by the Trump administration to go after immigrants, and the chaos that has been created under 1325, I believe, is the wrong direction for the country,” Castro told Vox. And his response — “to go the opposite way” — is to undo the legal underpinning that made it possible.
That proposal, and others, would require Congress to pass an immigration bill — something that Castro remains optimistic there’s bipartisan appetite for in Congress, but has said elsewhere wouldn’t be his first legislative priority. Unlike other plans 2020 candidates have released on other issues, however, much of the immigration policy Castro addresses is about what to do with existing executive branch resources and authorities — it’s policy, in other words, that Castro or another Democrat could start to change on day one.