To say the Trump administration’s policy on immigration is a disaster, would actually be a compliment. Let’s be honest, the policy is inhumane, chaotic, horrific, and unsustainable. And word this morning that 37 migrant children who had boarded vans last July in the brutal heat of a Texas summer, only to be forced to stay in those vans for up to 39 hours, exemplifies the incompetence we’ve seen when it comes to this issue.
The migrants were on their way to the Port Isabel Detention Center, hoping to reunite with their parents, who had been taken from them when the Trump administration began systematically separating migrant families who crossed the border illegally. Eventually, the children were reunited with the parents, but to endure such hardship is simply a disgrace.
Of course, this situation arose out of Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, which was officially in effect from April 2018 until June 2018. We’ve since learned that it was actually going on for far longer. The plan was intended to be a deterrent to illegal immigration. But the cruel and haphazard enforcement has been anything but.
How can this be happening in the United States of America in 2019? It’s really not that hard to fathom, given the administration’s propensity to demonize those who come from south of the border, mostly to appease Trump’s rabid base of supporters. The President’s primary solution to the crisis, other than separating the families, is to build a wall along the border, a wall he campaigned for when running against Hillary Clinton in 2016, and a wall that was supposed to be paid for by Mexico.
Look, we have a massive crisis at the border. There’s no getting around it. As a country, both sides of the political aisle have politicized this issue. But at least the Democrats have been out front in proposing detailed and comprehensive reform. And in 2013, Senate Bill 744 passed with bi-partisan support, only to wither on the vine in the House of Representatives, with then-Speaker John Boehner not even allowing debate on it.
But comprehensive reform is the only answer. Dancing around the issue with half-measures and executive orders aren’t going to get it done. Most, if not all of the Democratic contenders for the 2020 Presidential nomination, are in agreement with this fact. Recently, Beto O’Rourke released a comprehensive reform package on his website. A few months ago, Julian Castro did the same.
Looking at the most recent Real Clear Politics poll on the race, of the top ten contenders, Castro and O’Rourke have the most detailed plans released thus far. There are similarities to both of them, but some differences as well. Both of the proposals deal with what I feel is one of the most critical components to overall immigration reform: Central America—and what to do about it. President Trump has been woefully inadequate in his approach. Castro and O’Rourke are both on the right track. Today, we take a look at some of the highlights in Castro’s plan. Tomorrow, we’ll do the same for O’Rourke.
Reforming the Immigration System:
*Establishing a comprehensive roadmap to citizenship for undocumented individuals and families who do not have a current pathway to legal status, but who live, work, and raise families in communities throughout the United States.
*Provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and those under Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure, through the Dream and Promise Act of 2019, and defend DACA and TPS protections during the legislative process.
*Revamp the visa system and strengthen family reunification through the Reuniting Families Act, reducing the number of people who are waiting to reunite with their families but are stuck in the bureaucratic backlog. Note: There are several specific measures listed, and you can read the complete list here, as well as the whole plan itself.
Creating a Humane Border Policy:
*Repeal Section 1325 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which applies a criminal, rather than civil, violation to people apprehended when entering the United States.
*Reconstitute the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement(ICE) by splitting the agency in half and re-assigning enforcement functions within the Enforcement and Removal Operations to other agencies, including the Department of Justice—a thorough investigation of ICE, DOJ, and Customs and Border Protection’s(CBP) roles in family separation policies instituted by the Trump administration would be required.
*Reprioritize CBP to focus its efforts on border-related activities including drug and human trafficking, rather than law enforcement activities in the interior of the U.S.
*End wasteful, ineffective and invasive border wall construction and consult with border communities about repairing environmental and other damage already done.
*End asylum “metering” and the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy, ensuring all asylum seekers can present their claims to U.S. officials.
*Create a well-resourced and independent immigration court system under Article 1 of the Constitution, outside the Department of Justice, to increase the hiring and retention of independent judges to adjudicate immigration claims faster.
*Increase access to legal assistance for individuals and families presenting asylum claims.
*Protect victims of domestic and gang violence, by reversing guidance by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that prohibited such claims.
Establishing a 21st Century ‘Marshall Plan’ for Central America:
*Prioritize high-level diplomacy with our neighbors in Latin America.
*Ensure higher standards of governance, transparency, rule-of-law, and anti-corruption practice as the heart of U.S. engagement with Central America.
*Enlist all actors in Central America to be part of the solution by restoring U.S. credibility on corruption and transparency and encouraging the private sector, civil society, and local governments to work together.
*Bolster economic development, superior labor rights, and environmentally sustainable jobs.
*Ensure regional partners are part of the solution by working with countries in the Western Hemisphere to channel resources to address development challenges in Central America.
*Target illicit networks and transnational criminal organizations through law enforcement actions and sanctions mechanisms to eliminate their ability to raise revenue from illegal activities like human and drug trafficking and public corruption.
*Re-establish the Central American Minors program.
*Increase funding for bottom-up development and violence prevention programs.
So those are just some of the highlights to Castro’s plan. As noted above, the full policy can be seen on his campaign website.
It’s clear that his campaign has done their homework, and presented a detailed plan that at least allows us to debate its practicality. Hopefully, we will see more from the other candidates as we move further into the summer, and the debates are in full swing.
If I were to be critical of the plan, it would have to be in the lack of specifics as far as how employers would be part of this process. In the Senate Bill passed in 2013, there was much more regarding this component, including things such as E-Verify and other enforcement mechanisms. After all, if it weren’t for employers willing to hire illegal immigrants for far less than Americans would be willing to work for, our problems at the border would not be as severe.
But, this has been a problem since Ronald Reagan was President, and it’s time we dealt with it once and for all. In many ways, it’s the proverbial ‘elephant’ in the room that no politician is willing or able to address. Until that happens, we’re not going to fix the overall problem at the border, regardless of these other measures.
Overall though, it’s an effective plan. Perhaps the President ought to take a look?
Tomorrow: A look at Beto O’Rourke’s Immigration plan.