Democratic presidential hopeful Julian Castro clashed with a CNN panel over his proposal to decriminalize illegal border crossings, arguing decriminalizing the border is necessary for ending the family separation and child detainment policy.
"Less than a third of Democrats support what you're talking about. You just said before it's not that popular. It's really unpopular," Gloria Berger, a CNN political analyst, said. She then asked the former secretary of Housing and Urban Development how he would respond to the charge that he wants open borders.
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"We'll maintain border security, there are still consequences for coming across the border. We have 654 miles of fencing, we have planes, we have boats, we have guns, we have thousands of personnel at the border, that's a right-wing talking point," Castro responded. He then pivoted to criticizing the family separation policy and said that the detainment of children at the border was more disqualifying than calling for decriminalizing illegal border crossings.
"You said it's a right-wing, Republican talking point. But it's also Jeh Johnson's talking point. The DHS secretary wrote a piece in the Washington Post where he said your plan to decriminalize immigrants crossing the border illegally, he said it was essentially open borders," Nia-Malika Henderson, a CNN senior political reporter pointed out.
Castro doubled down on his "right-wing talking point" argument.
"I respect Secretary Johnson and it's unfortunate that he's basically adopting that right-wing talking point," Castro said. He also argued that Johnson wants to protect his own legacy as DHS secretary. "I think that a lot of folks who have looked at this, who understand immigration law, say that it would make more sense to get rid of this law because we still have consequences, it's still illegal to cross the border."
"It's against the law, but it's a civil fine or a civil penalty. What happens when somebody is intercepted?" host Anderson Cooper asked. Castro responded that immigrants would still have to show up in court for the civil penalty and could be arrested for a crime if they fail to do so.
He continued to argue that decriminalization is necessary to prevent family separation at the border.
"Could you pass a law that just better protects those kids without decriminalizing the border. Is that possible or not possible?" commentator Van Jones asked.
"I think that as long as that law is still there, you're going to have a tool that a future administration needs to do exactly what Donald Trump did," Castro responded.