Dem Presidential Candidates May Want to Steer Clear of Castro’s 1325 Repeal


The night of the first Dem debate I wrote:

Julian Castro dragged the rest of the field to the idea of repealing section 1325, thereby decriminalizing simple crossing of the border without authorization. In a single blow that would take away the legal basis for detaining immigrants and refugees until their status hearings.”

Here is what Castro said to raise the issue:

“CASTRO: If I might very briefly—and this is an important point. My plan and I’m glad to see that Senator Booker, Senator Warren and Governor Inslee agree with me on this—my plan also includes getting red—getting rid of Section 1325 of Immigration Nationality Act. To go back to the way we used to treat this—when somebody comes across the border not to criminalize desperation. To treat that as a civil violation. And—and here is why it’s important—we see all of this horrendous family separation they use that law Section 1325 to justify under the law separating little children from their families….

CASTRO: So I challenge every single candidate on this stage to support the repeal of Section 1325.”

Here is the video of Castro raising the issue:

What I did not say is that it may be a terrible idea to embrace Castro’s call for repeal of section 1325 if Dems want to try to win the Presidency and Senate seats in purple-trending southwestern states like Arizona and Texas. It could even imperil our hold onto some safer states like Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada.

Decriminalization of border crossing does not poll well, garnering less than a third of the electorate in Texas. I think it’s reasonable to presume similar numbers would be likely were one to poll other southwestern states. If anyone finds such polling, I would appreciate a tip in the comments. Democrats will have to at least closely study those numbers before declaring such a goal, or face a predictably losing argument in the general election for the aforementioned states. It may be a perilous position to take, and Beto seems to believe it so.

Booker, Warren and Inslee had best reach out to Beto’s campaign to learn why Beto is so reluctant to endorse Castro’s position.

“Activist[s] call this [repealing section 1325] the “Holy Grail” of immigration reform proposals… it’s controversial even within the Hispanic community. While Telemundo anchors praised Castro’s debate performance, one anchor brought up their 2018 viewership survey did not show majority support for it…

In 2018, Texas Monthly found 1 in 3 adult Texans supported decriminalizing the border. Notably, 62% of its suburban adults were against it.

In the Texas 2018 [Senate] race, advocating for decriminalizing the border was so unpopular Ted Cruz’s campaign and RNC devoted a great deal of resources to paint Beto O’Rourke into a corner on this issue. Beto refused to cross this 3rd rail of Texas of politics and focused on the need for asylum seekers to be processed civilly. Texas Democratic candidates grew support in the purple suburbs by framing the issue in terms of the sympathetic asylum seekers.”

It may well be inimical to the interest of the party’s eventual victory in the general election over Trump in the southwestern states for the eventual nominee to embrace Castro’s position.

Beto was concerned enough that he was willing to get down in the weeds on the matter. He struggled for over a minute to avoid stepping on that “3rd rail”. Watch him do his best to sidestep Castro’s snare:

Many felt this was a sticky moment for Beto. The reason he wouldn’t endorse Castro’s idea is because he knows precisely how toxic the policy proposal is in border states like his own, because Ted Cruz tried to use this precise issue against him. Castro surely knows that, too.

I don’t know why Castro believes this is a winning issue for Democrats so strongly that he lists the policy on his website and he seems to want to tie all the Democrats to it. It certainly would electrify the Latinx community, but it could cost Dems electorially in the long-run.

I am generally an advocate of a very progressive immigration policy, but we should fight on the ground where most Americans stand with us.

I certainly see the value in denying the use of this racist law to future Administrations, but for now repeal remains legislatively out of reach, so long as McConnell retains control of the Senate. I have to wonder if this issue just isn’t quite ripe yet. We certainly have to fight against misuse of this law to enact Trump’s zero-tolerance policy, but calling for its repeal might be politically premature.

Specifically in southwestern states, I see no evidence that people would be with Castro on this issue. Beto’s experience running state-wide in Texas makes me think that maybe he has the right end of the stick: a more cautious position of discretionary non-enforcement, rather than repeal. For now…

The other Presidential candidates and those running for Senate in purple states, like Mark Kelly, ought to give any public support for repeal of 1325 a very hard, data driven look before espousing it.


  1. I think that Julian Castro’s call for the repeal of section 1325 should be evaluated within the context of his whole immigration policy proposal which is already linked in this article. But, yes, he has gone past the “safe” policy proposals such as defending DACA and not wrestling babies from their mothers and putting them in cages.

    This concerns me, “I am generally an advocate of a very progressive immigration policy, but we should fight on the ground where most Americans stand with us.”

    It seems totally logical to take the position that we have to first win the election and then maybe we can somehow sell humane policies to the electorate after the fact.

    I am reminded of another major issue that Julian Castro has bravely spoken about and put on his website, police brutality. Democrats are painfully aware of this crisis, especially POC, but we cannot speak to it for fear of offending the cop-worshiping “white working class” and losing their votes. Never mind that black voters are mostly Democrats and there is no path to the presidency without their support. Yet, Democratic leaders tell them election after election that the time is not right. So instead of addressing this head-on, Democratic candidates blather about body-cams and training as the solution when we all KNOW what the solution is but we dare not say it. But someday, of course, the electorate will be ready for police reform, it is just a matter of time. Right. How many people get to die or become disabled for life before this happens?

    Why don’t we work harder at promoting humane policies?

    Why don’t we work harder at building a Democratic base that reflects the changing demographics of the country as well as being reflective of who actually supports Democratic ideals?

    I’m not so sure that what Julian Castro is proposing on immigration policy is a hard sell. Especially given the atrocities that are occurring right now. Maybe it is more a matter of enlightening the voters and not pandering to the so-called moderates.

    • Sharing a comment I just saw. I know the writer, a very politically astute black woman.

      “We don’t have an immigration crisis. We have a racism put into policy crisis, by an Administration bound an determined to hurt non-White people. A border patrol that is out of control, and needs to be completely cleaned of personnel.”

      The point is,a lot of the Democratic base already knows what is happening here. If POC are more aligned with Democrats than Republicans, which they obviously are, then their issues need to be put front and center.

      Racism. Say it. We can start dealing with it or let it destroy us.

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