The wall and immigration policy promise to be prominent features of the 2020 presidential campaign. Among the proposals making headlines nationally is what former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro of San Antonio – now a Democratic presidential contender – is calling his “putting people first” proposal. Castro advocates significantly reducing immigration regulations.
Geoffrey Hoffman is director of the immigration clinic at the University of Houston Law Center. He says Castro’s plan goes far beyond previous immigration proposals. He would set up Article 1 courts, significantly reduce the detention of immigrants and decriminalize illegal border entry.
Unlike the current immigration court system, Article 1 courts would be independent of the Department of Justice, Hoffman says. They would potentially relieve the current backlog of immigration cases by allowing judges to make decisions more efficiently.
Decriminalizing illegal border entry would reduce the current penalty – a criminal misdemeanor – to a civil misdemeanor. Such a change would mean immigrants would be routed to civil courts, rather than immigration courts, and that immigrants would not have a criminal record based on a conviction for illegal entry.
U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a Texas Republican, tweeted that Castro’s approach amounts to creating “open borders.” Hoffman says that’s hyperbole.
“It definitely does go further than some other plans,” he says. That includes the DREAM Act and various comprehensive immigration reform proposals.
“Especially with respect to the immigration courts, I think [the proposal] is very, very important,” Hoffman says. “And [this idea] is also endorsed by the [American Bar Association.]”
Written by Shelly Brisbin.