California attorney general calls for unauthorized immigration to be decriminalized

California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraTrump administration rolls back Obama-era lightbulb rules 20 states sue Trump administration over Flores rule California leads states in lawsuit over Trump public charge rule MORE (D) called for unathorized immigration to be decriminalized, in an interview with HuffPost.

"They are not criminals,” Becerra told HuffPost regarding those who cross the border illegally in an interview published on Wednesday. “They haven’t committed a crime against someone, and they are not acting violently or in a way that’s harmful to people. And I would argue they are not harming people indirectly either."

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Becerra’s comments come as immigration has become a hot issue, with President TrumpDonald John TrumpSupreme Court comes to Trump's aid on immigration Trump is failing on trade policy Trump holds call with Netanyahu to discuss possible US-Israel defense treaty MORE recently threatening to close the southern border with Mexico. 

Last week, Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro called for the decriminalization of border crossings Tuesday as part of his 2020 presidential platform on immigration.

In his interview, Becerra said crossing the border without proper authorization should still carry consequences, but said a criminal charge unnecessarily brands immigrants as "criminals."

“If you call them criminals, it’s a lot easier to get people to turn against them than if you call them undocumented immigrants,” he told the news outlet.

Currently, entering the country illegally for the first time constitutes a misdemeanor that is punishable by up to six months in prison, according to HuffPost.

Additional violations can be pursued as felonies, the publication noted. 

California, led by Becerra and Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), has put itself at the forefront of the immigration battle, challenging many of the Trump administration's crackdowns on unauthorized immigration.