John Delaney: Decriminalizing border crossings is not 'the right thing to do'

Presidential candidate and former Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyJulián Castro is behind in the polls, but he's finding a niche Democratic strategist predicts most 2020 candidates will drop out in late fall The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump hits media over 'send her back' coverage MORE (D-Md.) said Monday that he doesn’t think decriminalizing border crossings is the right approach amid a surge of migrants at the southern border.

“I just don’t think at this moment in time when we have a huge kind of surge at our border sending a message that we’re going to decriminalize crossings is the right thing to do,” Delaney told Hill.TV during an interview on “Rising.”

“My wife and I were at the border couple of months ago helping asylum seekers make their case, so I saw first hand,” he added. “These people are actually coming for very legitimate reasons — unless we stabilize what’s going on in those countries we’re going to continue to see this refugee crisis.”

The former Maryland lawmaker said that Congress should instead address the aftermath of President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Trump talks to Swedish leader about rapper A$AP Rocky, offers to vouch for his bail Matt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' MORE’s zero tolerance policy, which led to the separation of hundreds of migrant families.

“Let’s pass a law saying children cannot be separated from their parents, which is the law I’m in favor of,” Delaney said. “You do that and you don’t have to decriminalize border crossings and I just don’t think decriminalizing border crossings when we clearly have a crisis at our southern border, we clearly have a massive amount of migration.”

Many of the Democratic presidential candidates on stage said they favored some form of decriminalizing border crossings during last week's debates.

On the second night of the debates, just one candidate — Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetDemocratic strategist predicts most 2020 candidates will drop out in late fall The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump hits media over 'send her back' coverage The Hill's Campaign Report: Second debate lineups set up high-profile clash MORE (D-Colo.) — did not raise his hand in response to a question about decriminalizing border crossings.

Delaney said he backs legal immigration for the sake of the U.S. economy.

“The worst thing for a country is to shrink — the worst thing, economically,” he said, pointing to Russia and Japan as prime examples of countries with hardline immigration policies. “So imagine your country is getting older, you have all of these obligations and you have no new workers to effectively pay the bills.”

The House Oversight and Reform Committee is expected to hold a hearing on Wednesday over the treatment of migrant children by the Department of Homeland Security.

Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsCummings asks prosecutors about decision not to charge Trump in hush money probe DHS chief to Pelosi: Emergency border funding 'has already had an impact' Cummings tears into DHS chief for conditions at migrant border facilities MORE (D-Md.) has invited DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan and acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan to testify.

The hearing comes amid concerns of the conditions of migrants at the southern border.

The U.N. high commissioner for human rights issued a statement on Monday, saying she found the conditions of migrants and refugees being held at the border appalling.

President Trump, meanwhile, pushed back over the weekend against reports of conditions are unsafe and unsanitary conditions, saying that they were being exaggerated.

—Tess Bonn