Dem Candidate Can't Answer Why He Supported Immigration Policies Under Obama that He Attacks Trump For

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Democrat presidential candidate Julián Castro’s first debate performance was widely expected to vault him further up the candidates’ ladder, but that didn’t quite happen. Not only is Castro — who was Housing and Urban Development secretary under President Barack Obama and mayor of San Antonio — not among the first tier of contenders, but he hasn’t even made it among the second tier among names like Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke and even Andrew Yang.

The latest RealClearPolitics average shows Castro at 1 percent, behind such candidates as Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Cory Booker of New Jersey. And if he was hoping for a boost from the second round of Democrat debates, he probably shouldn’t have dropped by CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

Anyone who watched the first round of debates can avouch to the fact that the only real question about immigration was how far to the left the candidates could go.

Castro went very far left, raising his hand when the candidates were asked whether illegally crossing the border ought to be decriminalized and blaming President Donald Trump personally for a father and daughter who were found drowned in the Rio Grande during an attempt to enter the United States illegally:

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During his appearance on “Face the Nation” on Sunday, however, Castro was asked to account for the fact he didn’t always seem to believe in what he proposed during the debates and out on the campaign trail.

“When you were mayor of San Antonio, you testified before Congress and you called for increased border security measures and you praised the Obama administration’s actions,” host Margaret Brennan said.

She then played a clip from his testimony: “In Texas, we know firsthand that this administration has put more boots on the ground along the border than at any other time in our history, which has led to unprecedented success in removing dangerous individuals with criminal records,” Castro said in 2013.

“Why did you praise that policy then but when the Trump administration adopts similar language and policies, you’re hypercritical of them?” Brennan asked.

Do you support increased border security measures?

Castro insisted that he was talking about something much different. “If you listen to what I said in that clip, I talked about people who committed serious crimes, dangerous criminals. I haven’t changed at all,” he said. “If there are people who have committed serious felonies in the United States who are immigrants or who come to the border, I have always consistently said that — that those people should be apprehended, that they should be deported. So I haven’t changed that at all.”

Really now? So how do “boots on the ground along the border” stop “dangerous individuals with criminal records”? How do they know which ones are which? Are those “boots on the ground” prepossessed of special knowledge as to what individual crossing the border has committed a serious offense?

He’s obviously talking about keeping people out of here, not kicking them out. Now he wants to decriminalize border crossing. That’s quite a ways to come in just six years — and my assumption is that most of that journey took place on the night of Nov. 8, 2016.

He continued by saying that “what’s definitely different in this administration is that this administration has weaponized the law to cruelly separate little children from their parents. Look, I’ve been consistent. I don’t have an issue with maintaining a secure border. We’re always going to do that. What I have an issue with is separating little children from their parents.”

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Just not under the Obama administration, which separated plenty of children from their parents.

Brennan didn’t particularly feel like pursuing this line of thinking further and, indeed, didn’t press Castro on much in what could have been a contentious interview.

Other fun lines one wishes she would have questioned included Castro calling Trump “the biggest identity politician that we have seen in the last 50 years” and saying that “he engages in what’s known as racial priming. Basically, using this language and taking actions to try and get people to move into their camps by racial and ethnic identity.”

I’m usually of the position that Freudian projection is one of the weaker counterarguments out there, a semiliterate version of “I know you are, but what am I?” However, I can’t think of many other things that could possibly account for those lines escaping Castro’s mouth when he’s an identity politics standout in a field that makes standing out in that respect difficult.

Brennan’s challenge on the immigration point, however, should tell America just who they’re dealing with in terms of Castro. He doesn’t have an answer as to why he once supported policies he now seems to vigorously oppose. His only response is that he’s been consistent, except that he hasn’t been.

As The Daily Caller notes, Castro also has called for the repeal of the law that makes illegal reentry to the country a felony. And when it comes to deporting violent criminals who are here illegally, he wasn’t necessarily prepared to give a definitive answer to that during the same 2013 hearing.

“If we have someone here who is here illegally, and not one of those hard-working people, but someone who is a member of a violent criminal gang, should we be prepared to deport them before they commit a criminal act, or should they also have a path to citizenship?” a Republican representative asked him.

“With regard to the hypothetical of people who might commit a crime or might not commit a crime, you know, I readily concede that I am not in law enforcement, I am not a technical expert in that regard, but I do believe that folks who have committed a violent crime should be deported,” Castro said.

That question shouldn’t have been terribly difficult. Then again, none of this should be. Entering the country illegally shouldn’t be decriminalized, reentering illegally ought to be a felony and we ought to have boots along the border, boots that are augmented by physical or technological barriers. Furthermore, the Department of Homeland Security should have the resources it needs not only to achieve these goals but to detain those who choose to cross illegally.

These aren’t policies anyone should be “hypercritical” of. And, in the past, Castro wasn’t hypercritical of them. In fact, he was supportive.

One hopes in the second round of debates the moderators aren’t quite so lenient on him. Of course, given his poll numbers after the boost he was supposed to get from a well-received first round post, it may not matter much.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture