O’Rourke: ‘I Do Not Think’ Law Making Illegal Border Crossings a Criminal Offense Should Be Repealed

By Craig Millward | June 17, 2019 | 12:51pm EDT
(Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, Democratic presidential candidate and former Rep. Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke said he does not think the law regarding making illegal border crossings a crime should be repealed.

Host Jake Tapper asked O’Rourke, “Your fellow Texan and 2020 candidate Julian Castro's immigration plan calls for the repeal of a law that makes it a crime to enter the United States illegally. Do you agree with that? That the law be repealed?”

“I don't know if it should be repealed, Jake,” O’Rourke initially told Tapper. “But I think that we should acknowledge that most of those who are arriving at our border right now, especially from Central America, are at their most desperate and vulnerable moment. They pose no threat or harm to this country.

“And we’ve proposed a family case management program, so that they are not held in detention, at a fraction of the cost and at an improved rate of showing for their court date or their appointments with ICE officials. We help them to follow our own laws, and we treat them like the human beings that they really are,” he said.



“So, policies of caging kids or separating families or metering, where we have migrants and asylum seekers wait in Mexico, where they are prey to criminals and to those who would take advantage of the most vulnerable, that cannot be this country. We have to live our values and ensure that our laws reflect our reality and our true interests in this country,” O’Rourke said.

Tapper pressed O’Rourke “Ok, but just to get a straight answer on it, it sounds to me like you think the law that makes it a crime to be in this country illegally, it sounds like you think that that should stay the law.”

“I think what I'm saying is that, in the vast majority of cases, there's no need to incarcerate or to detain migrant families, and especially children,” O’Rourke responded.

“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 that they do not pose a threat to this country or to our communities. But the bigger picture --“ he added.

“But you disagree with -- you disagree with Julian Castro? You don't think that it should be repealed?” Tapper interjected.

“Yeah, I have answered the question. I do not think that it should be repealed,” O’Rourke said.

He continued, “But I'm trying to get to the heart of the issue, which is that we treat people humanely, that we improve our security, not through walls and through cages, but by making sure that those who are at their most vulnerable who are trying to follow our asylum laws are able to do that, and that we then rewrite this country's immigration laws in our own image.

“Having people come out of the shadows demonstrably makes us safer. Having folks trust local law enforcement, because they have no fear that it will lead to their deportation, makes our communities stronger, more secure and safer,” O’Rourke said.

“And then it allows this country of immigrants and asylum seekers and refugees to truly live our values, to the benefit, not just of those immigrant families, but to the entire United States of America,” he added.



Julian Castro’s immigration plan

In his immigration plan released in April, Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro called for the repeal Section 1325 of Immigration and Nationality Act, “which applies a criminal, rather than civil, violation to people apprehended when entering the United States.”

“This provision has allowed for separation of children and families at our border, the large scale detention of tens of thousands of families, and has deterred migrants from turning themselves in to an immigration official within our borders,” Castro said in his plan. “The widespread detention of these individuals and families at our border has overburdened our justice system, been ineffective at deterring migration, and has cost our government billions of dollars.”

In a blog post for Medium in April, Castro said, “This shift to criminalize immigration is at the core of many of this administration’s most egregious immigration policies — from family separation to indiscriminate ICE raids to targeting asylum seekers. It also underlies some of this administration’s most damaging rhetoric that vilifies immigrants and families.

“The Trump administration has slashed the number of people who can claim asylum at our ports of entry, and weaponized Section 1325 to try and make it a crime to claim asylum outside a port of entry. These misguided policies, combined with criminally under-resourced ports of entry, have created a backlog at our borders. The result is apparent in the scenes from El Paso recently, where thousands of migrants were held with limited food and water in caged outdoor pens,” he said.

“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,” Castro added.


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