Although Pelosi said earlier this week that “status violations” shouldn’t be cause for deportations, her comments on Thursday are some of the strongest denunciations of current immigration policy that the top House Democrat has offered to date. It comes a day after a Democratic presidential debate in which former HUD Secretary Julián Castro proposed changing the law to make unlawful entry into the country a civil violation rather than a crime.

“We’re talking about human lives, and let’s just subject people to the laws, but we also have to recognize that everybody in America has rights,” Pelosi continued. “But you just cannot say—and there’s a disagreement—that anybody coming across the border is breaking the law. Not until there’s been a determination to whether they can stay or not, but just because they’re coming across the border they don’t.”

Still, however, Pelosi reiterated her opposition to an open border policy, and attempted to dissuade those fears by saying the border needed to be protected and that non-citizens who are found guilty of violating the law should be deported, directing her comments toward people attempting to present themselves for asylum.


“We don’t have to undermine who we are as a country by saying it’s a crime to engage in an internationally recognized opportunity to make your case, to come into a country, any country,” Pelosi said.