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George Stephanopoulos Calls Out Julián Castro: Don’t Your Positions ‘Add Up’ to ‘Open Borders’?

Democrats running for the 2020 nomination had a few “raise your hand” moments at the NBC debate last week, and among them was a question about decriminalizing illegal border crossings. Julián Castro was among those who raised his hand, and on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, host George Stephanopoulos asked him about it.

At the debate, the specific direction from the moderators was to “raise your hand if you think it should be a civil offense rather than a crime to cross the border without documentation?” Stephanopoulos pointed out that President Trump tweeted about the moment, and that the New York Post wrote about it.

After reading from the reactions, Stephanopoulos asked, “Did you give an opening to the Republicans?”

“Not at all,” said Castro, in contradiction to not just what the Post and Trump said, but also what the New York Times wrote in an article on Saturday. “What I would like every American taxpayer to know is that right now, number one, undocumented immigrants already pay a lot of taxes. Secondly, we already pay for the health care of undocumented immigrants. It’s called the emergency room. People show up in the emergency room and they get care, as they should. And then third, it is the right thing to do. We’re not going to let people living in this country die because they can’t see a doctor. That’s not who we are as Americans.”

Stephanopoulos pressed him on the point, and invoked the words “open borders.”

“The question is: at what cost, though?” he said. “When you add up all the proposals you’re — you’re — you’re calling for right now, decriminalization of crossing the border, no deportation absent other crimes, the offer of health benefits, also a possible path to citizenship. I know you reject the rhetoric about open borders, but isn’t that effectively open borders, not limiting how — immigration in any real way?”

Castro said he had to challenge that phrasing, and went through a few points. He said it can’t be open borders if there are 654 miles of it fenced off, and with thousands of personnel, planes, helicopters, and guns there. He didn’t take into account whether decriminalizing border crossing would necessarily reduce the number of law enforcement there to stop the crossings on the grounds that they’re criminal.

“And then, you know, secondly, there is still a civil court process, there are still people who are being deported, there are people applying for asylum that do not receive, are not granted asylum,” he said, still describing current law, not a state of affairs as it might exist if the laws were changed. “So right — open borders is just a right-wing talking point. It always has been.”

“And I’ll say, it doesn’t matter what Democrats do on this issue,” Castro continued. “President Trump and Republicans are always going to say that Democrats are for open borders.”

Castro listed some of his goals and ideals for how immigration and the border should or could be handled, leading Stephanopoulos to ask him about who exactly it is that Castro believes should be permitted to cross into the country.

“You talk about safety and opportunity at home, and you have called for that Marshall Plan for Central America, but what is your limiting principle on allowing people in and giving them asylum?” he asked. “There are wide swathes of the entire world mired in poverty, mired in — in — in areas where there’s high crime. Anyone who’s facing that kind of poverty, that kind of crime should get asylum?”

In other words, he was asking him whether, considering that a huge portion of the world fits those categories, is it the case that basically anyone gets in on an asylum claim.

“No, and that’s not the system that we have now.,” said Castro, still addressing the current laws and not how they would exist in the future if they were to be changed. “We have a system to consider asylum claims based on certain criteria where people either qualify for asylum or they don’t.”

“You know, I agree with people that say, ‘look, in theory can we take everyone who would like to be in the United States?’,” said Castro in support of the idea in principle, but added, “Nobody has called for that.”

“I do believe, however, and I’ve put forward an immigration plan that would accept more people,” he said. “So, nobody has called for unlimited number of people coming to this country, but I do believe that we should expand that significantly, and we’re big enough to do that.”

“I refuse to believe, because it’s not true, that the people that are coming because they’re desperate, lot of them women and children, represent some sort of national security threat or cultural threat to this country. That’s bull,” he concluded.

Watch the clip above, courtesy of ABC News.

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