O'Rourke Asked Three Times Whether Crossing Border Should Be a Crime

June 17, 2019

It took CNN host Jake Tapper three attempts to get a straight answer from Robert "Beto" O'Rourke on whether it should be a crime to illegally cross the United States border with Mexico.

The line of questioning from Tapper was based on a few months old policy proposal by Julian Castro, who wants to decriminalize unauthorized border crossings and begin treating them as civil offenses. O'Rourke was asked whether he agrees with Castro that laws making it a crime to cross the border should be repealed, but failed to come to a conclusion.

"I don’t know if it should be repealed but we should acknowledge that most of those arriving at the border now, especially from Central America, are at the most desperate and vulnerable moment and they pose no threat or harm to this country," O'Rourke began, before detailing one of his policies for how to deal with the border.

Tapper followed up in an attempt to "get a straight answer" on the question, but was again side-stepped by O'Rourke, who answered by saying he thinks drug smugglers and human traffickers need to be detained.

"I think what I’m saying is that in the vast majority of cases, there is no need to incarcerate or to detain migrant families and especially children," O'Rourke said. "But if somebody is attempting to smuggle human beings into the United States, if they are attempting to cross illegal drugs into this country, I want to make sure that we have the legal mechanism necessary to hold them accountable and to detain them to make sure they do not pose a threat to this country or to our communities."

Tapper followed up a third time with O'Rourke, who insisted he had already answered the question.

"Yeah, I've answered the question," O'Rourke said. "I do not think it should be repealed but I’m trying to get to the heart of the issue, which is to treat people humanly, and that we improve our security not through walls and through cages, but by making sure that those who are at the most vulnerable who are trying to follow our asylum laws are able to do that."

CNN credited O'Rourke for coming out against decriminalizing border crossings, without mentioning the effort Tapper exerted to get an answer from O'Rourke.

During his unsuccessful 2018 campaign for U.S. Senate, O'Rourke offered another view, saying "asylum-seekers" caught crossing the border shouldn't be treated as criminals.

"These asylum-seekers—penniless, at wit’s end, after surviving three weeks on the road, very often with their children—then attempt to do what I think any human would do, which is to request asylum in between the ports of entry," O’Rourke told the Huffington Post. "We should not criminalize that."

O'Rourke has more recently advocated for removing existing wall on the border.