Defending the deportations that took place under the Obama administration, former Vice President Joe Biden said crossing the border illegally and skipping the “line” while other immigrants navigate the legal immigration process should be treated as a crime.
Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro said he supports decriminalizing illegal crossings.
One of the moderators asked Biden about the record number of illegal immigrants deported under Obama.
“I already proposed and passed $750 million for Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, to be able to change the circumstance why people fled in the first place,” Biden said during the Democratic presidential primary debate on Wednesday.
“In addition to that, we’re in a circumstance where if, in fact, you say you can just cross the border, what do you say to all those people around the world who, in fact, want the same thing to come to the United States and make their case, that they don’t — that they have to wait in line. The fact of the matter is, you should be able to — if you cross the border illegally, you should be able to be sent back. It’s a crime. It’s a crime,” he added.
Addressing whether or not illegal entry should remain a crime, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) argued that it should be a civil offense.
“You have to remember who we’re talking about. When I was at the Texas border, I visited with women who had fled violence. A woman from El Salvador owned a small business. Gangs came to her and said if you don’t give us all your money, we’re going to kill your family. That’s why she fled,” she said.
“Another woman was raped. That’s why she fled. So this is who we’re talking about — and they’re not criminals. So I believe that we should have a civil violation. No president before President Trump enforced the law in the way he has enforced it because he’s using it as the crutch to lock up women and children, to separate mothers and babies, to put them behind bars,” she added.
Biden was asked if the higher deportation rates under Obama would resume if he was elected.
“Absolutely not, number one. Number two, everything landed on the president’s desk but locusts. I found that Julian — excuse me — the secretary, we sat together in many meetings. I never heard him talk about any of this when he was the secretary,” he replied.
“The fact is what the senator from New York talked about is seeking asylum. That woman, the women she spoke to are entitled to asylum. That is not crossing the border illegally. What we should do is flood the zone to make sure we have people to make those decisions quickly,” he added.
Castro disagreed with Biden.
“The only way that we’re going to guarantee that these kinds of family separations don’t happen in the future is that we need to repeal this law. There’s still going to be consequences if somebody crosses the border. It’s a civil action,” he said.
Biden replied, “I have guts enough to say his plan doesn’t make sense. Here’s the deal. The fact of the matter is that, in fact, when people cross the border illegally, it is illegal to do it unless they’re seeking asylum. People should have to get in line. That’s the problem. And the only reason this particular part of the law is being abused is because of Donald Trump. We should defeat Donald Trump and end this practice.”