Castro’s remarks came after CNSNews.com asked whether he thought that the many services provided to illegal alien children, including education and health benefits, could serve to attract people from Central America.
“I think people all over the world seek a better life,” said Castro, who took part in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s annual public policy conference. “I think there’s a lot of desperation.
“There’s no question about that,” Castro said.
“I think the American people have, throughout history, risen to the challenge, whether it was European immigrants from Ireland, and Italy and Germany who came to our shores,” Castro said. “Those folks also came with nothing, and this country was built upon their hard work and their labor and the labor of others.
“And I think that this chapter in American history is very similar to that European chapter,” he said.
Castro and Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.) moderated a panel discussion on “long-term solutions” for dealing with the unaccompanied children, which both said should include providing those children with asylum status in the United States.
Between 1862 and 1954, some 12 million immigrants were processed through Ellis Island, off of the coast of New York. According to theStatue of Liberty - Ellis Island Foundation, immigrants had to pass a health examination, have legal identification and show that they could work to be cleared for admittance.
“Despite the island's reputation as an ‘Island of Tears,’ the vast majority of immigrants were treated courteously and respectfully, and were free to begin their new lives in America after only a few short hours on Ellis Island,” the foundation website states.
“Only two percent of the arriving immigrants were excluded from entry,” the website states. “The two main reasons why an immigrant would be excluded were if a doctor diagnosed that the immigrant had a contagious disease that would endanger the public health or if a legal inspector thought the immigrant was likely to become a public charge or an illegal contract laborer.”