Monday, July 1, 2019
José Díaz-Balart via Facebook
During Wednesday night's debate among Democratic presidential hopefuls, former HUD Secretary Julián Castro called for the repeal of 8 U.S.C. § 1325. That section, as most readers know, gives the U.S. government the option to criminally charge individuals who enter this country without permission. That's over and above the civil deportation process. (I recently wrote about this issue here and here.)
During Thursday's debate, moderator José Díaz-Balart asked the second set of panelists to raise their hands if "if you think it should be a civil offense rather than a crime to cross the border without documentation?"
The New York Times has a wonderful description of the response:
Eight candidates raised their hands, some more eagerly than others. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. raised a finger.
Díaz-Balart followed up with Biden: "would you decriminalize crossing the border without documents?"
Not loving the response he got, Díaz-Balart questioned Biden once more. But this time, Díaz-Balart asked a fundamentally different question -- one disguised as a rephrasing of the original inquiry yet was anything but.
Díaz-Balart asked: "My question to you is, if an individual is living in the United States of America without documents, and that is his only offense, should that person be deported?"
After Biden offered comments, Díaz-Balart pressed once more: "Fifteen seconds, if you could, if you wish to answer. Should someone who is here without documents, and that is his only offense, should that person be deported?"
Biden's response? "That person should not be the focus of deportation." (For the record, Representative Swalwell and Senator Harris both said the would not deport such an individual.)
Biden's response tells me that he understood the switcheroo that Díaz-Balart perpetrated. The first two questions focused on whether unlawful entry should be a crime. The third and fourth questions asked about civil deportation priorities.
I want to be clear -- I don't think the second set of questions asked by Díaz-Balart aren't worth asking. They are. But it's also critical to explain that the issues are distinct.
Here is my problem with the switch: I don't think America followed it.
Why not? Well, here are just a few of the comments that I received when writing about the repeal of 1325:
- "They are all trying to say they are for open borders"
- "do you really want no restrictions on the number and character of people who enter the US and stay here. Is that what the far left is advocating. It does sound like it."
Even a liberal friend of mine reached out to ask if all the Democrats want open borders.
Immprofs know that when Castro calls for the repeal of Section 1325, the only thing he's asking for is to handle unlawful migration through the very powerful and extremely effective tool of civil deportation. He's asking that the U.S. not pile onto that “burdensome and severe" remedy with a criminal conviction.
Unfortunately, for most of America, Díaz-Balart's switcheroo ended up shedding more darkness than light on this particular subject of debate.