Two candidates in tonight’s debate are Texans who passed up a run at the Senate to run for president instead. One of them ate the other’s lunch on immigration.
While discussing the heartbreaking photo of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter Valeria, former HUD Secretary Julián Castro grew emotional and said the photo should “piss us all off.” He said he’d end Donald Trump’s zero tolerance policy, then went further by saying he’d push for and sign legislation to honor asylum claims and introduce a Marshall Plan for Central American countries with high rates of migration to the United States.
But later, after an answer from Sen. Cory Booker, Castro emphasized a part of his plan that would repeal a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act that makes unlawful entry a criminal offense. And later, he called out O’Rourke specifically for not supporting him. “Your policies would criminalize a lot of these families,” Castro interjected during an O’Rourke answer, and chided him for not supporting that same proposal. (Castro nodded to Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, and Gov. Jay Inslee, for doing the same.)
“I think it’s a mistake, Beto,” Castro said. “If not, then it might as well be the same policy. O’Rourke responded by saying he introduced legislation to bar immigrants seeking asylum from being criminalized, but Castro wasn’t having it. “I’m not talking about the ones seeking asylum, I’m talking about everybody else,” he said.
“A lot of folks who are coming are not seeking asylum, a lot of them are undocumented immigrants,” Castro explained. “And you said recently that the reason you didn’t want to repeal Section 1325 was because you were concerned about human trafficking and drug trafficking. But let me tell you what: Title 18 of the US Code, Title 21, and Title 22 already cover human trafficking.”
“I think that you should do your homework on this issue,” Castro shot at O’Rourke. “If you did your homework on this issue, you would know we should repeal this section.” O’Rourke looked deeply uncomfortable and small.
Out of all of the possible fights on this stage tonight, Castro v. O’Rourke wasn’t one I was expecting.