Julian Castro: 'Migration Shouldn’t Be a Criminal Justice Issue'

Julian Castro / Getty
April 2, 2019

Julian Castro, a former Obama administration official and 2020 presidential candidate, called for the decriminalization of border crossings and an end to treating illegal immigration as "a criminal justice issue."

Castro, who formerly served as the mayor of San Antonio prior to serving as Obama's Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, published a Medium post on Monday titled, "Putting People First." In this piece, he reflects on his grandmother's journey to the United States and how she ended up here as a seven-year-old after being separated from her dying mother.

"We need a pathway to full and equal citizenship for the 11 million people living here peacefully, and contributing to our culture and our economy," Castro wrote. "We must protect Dreamers and their parents, and folks under protected status who fled natural disasters, persecution, or violence. We need to revamp the visa system and end the backlog of people who are waiting to reunite with their families."

Later in the piece, he takes a shot at President Donald Trump's "zero tolerance" immigration policy, saying that it contributed to "children as young as infants being taken away from their parents, caged, and even 'lost' in the foster care system." He also said the United States needs a "pathway to full and equal citizenship" for the millions of people who are "contributing to our culture and our economy."

"We must end the three and ten year bars that require undocumented individuals — who otherwise qualify for legal status — to leave the country and their families behind, in order to attain citizenship," Castro wrote. "We need to create a secure and humane border. The worst of the government’s actions stem from a little-known, but significant policy that is central to today’s inhumane and flawed immigration system: Section 1325."

The "Section 1325" to which Castro was referring is 8 U.S. Code § 1325. That section of the U.S. criminal code deals with unlawful entry, failure to depart, fleeing immigration checkpoints, marriage fraud, and commercial enterprise fraud, according to the Department of Justice, but Castro considers this a category error in the law.

"The truth is, immigrants seeking refuge in our country aren’t a threat to national security. Migration shouldn’t be a criminal justice issue. It’s time to end this draconian policy and return to treating immigration as a civil — not a criminal — issue," he said.