Castro responds to Obama DHS secretary criticism: Open borders are 'a right-wing talking point'

Castro responds to Obama DHS secretary criticism: Open borders are 'a right-wing talking point'
© Greg Nash

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro on Thursday rebuffed criticism from former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson of Castro's proposal to decriminalize unauthorized border crossings.

Castro said that Johnson's suggestion that doing so would be tantamount to having open borders echoed a "right-wing talking point."

Asked during a presidential candidate town hall hosted by the League of United Latin American Citizens what he thought of Johnson's so-called friendly fire, Castro said the criticism was "obviously not friendly."

The former San Antonio mayor also took a shot at two of his rivals in the Democratic presidential primary, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump hits Fox News's Chris Wallace over Ukraine coverage Schiff: Whistleblower testimony might not be necessary Trump warns Democrats will lose House seats over impeachment MORE and former Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeButtigieg pushes back on O'Rourke threat to strip religious institutions of tax-exempt status O'Rourke raises .5 million in third quarter Conservatives slam Beto O'Rourke over threat to tax-exempt status for religious organizations MORE (D-Texas), who have come out against making illegal border crossings a civil violation rather than a criminal offense.

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"I would say that Secretary Johnson is wrong, Vice President Biden is wrong on this and Congressman O’Rourke is wrong on this," Castro said.

Castro noted that "until about 2004, we treated crossing the border as a civil violation, not a criminal violation," and said by conflating that with the notion of open borders, Johnson was repeating a prominent political argument on the right.

"Secretary Johnson has suggested somehow that people will take that as open borders. Open borders are a right-wing talking point," he said, pointing to current enforcement mechanisms on the U.S. southern border, like existing fencing and the presence of Border Patrol agents.

He also argued that migrants crossing the border without permission often do so with the intention of presenting themselves to Border Patrol and law enforcement officials.

"They want to present themselves to our border officials," Castro said. "It makes no sense to make policy based out of fear, political fear."