As presidential candidate Julian Castro unveiled a sweeping immigration plan that would unravel a number of measures instituted under Presidents Donald Trump and George W. Bush on Tuesday, the Democrat took aim at Trump, saying the U.S. leader’s immigration “cruelty has failed” in its goal to curb illegal immigration.
Castro, who previously served as mayor of San Antonio and as secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Barack Obama, made the comments in an interview with NPR, lashing out at Trump over his administration’s widely condemned “zero tolerance” policy that resulted in family separations.
“This president’s cruelty has failed,” Castro said of the zero tolerance policy, which saw 2,500 children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump rescinded the rule on June 20 in response to widespread backlash.
“A year ago this administration asked us to believe that if we could be cruel enough to separate little children from their mothers that would deter more families from coming,” Castro said.
But, he said, “actually the opposite is true. More families are coming now.”
Last week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) sounded the alarm that it had reached its “breaking point” in managing a surge in arrivals at the U.S.-Mexico border, including many families from across Central America with young children.
As CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan warned that the agency could not keep up with the situation at the southern border, Trump threatened to shut down U.S. ports of entry entirely.
The U.S. leader also set in motion plans to cut aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, where the majority of asylum seekers come from. He accused the three countries, collectively known as the Northern Triangle, of not doing enough to deter irregular migration to the U.S.
While Trump has overseen a hardline campaign to crack down on immigration to the U.S., Castro’s immigration plan seeks to undo the U.S. leader’s efforts. The centerpiece of Castro’s plan is to provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented residents of the U.S. who do not currently have a pathway to legal status but live work and have families across the country.
In a Medium post on his plan, Castro said that the next U.S. president “must start by reversing the cruel policies of the Trump administration—including the Muslim ban, wasteful spending on a pointless wall, and cuts to the refugee program—and ending the vile rhetoric that has scapegoated and vilified immigrants.
“I’m proud to unveil an immigration policy that reintegrates those collective values in our immigration system,” Castro said. “A policy that is sensible and fair and treats those who cross our borders in search of refuge with empathy and understanding.
“It’s time our nation’s immigration system reflect the collective values that we all share—equality, fairness, justice and compassion,” Castro said. “It’s time that we recognize that protecting our borders and treating immigrants with compassion are not mutually exclusive.”
Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro speaks at Bell Gardens High School, in Los Angeles County, on March 4, in Bell Gardens, California. Castro, who served as secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Barack Obama, has struck back at President Donald Trump over his immigration ‘cruelty.’ Mario Tama/Getty