CLINT, Texas — Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro on Saturday could not get into the Border Patrol Station where migrant children are being held in Clint.
But flanked by several state representatives, Castro stood outside and said the current immigration situation is a “symptom of this administration’s decision to criminalize desperation.”
“Children are living in terrible conditions. Many of them are crowded into the same room. We’ve read reports about children sleeping on cold concrete floors and not being given a toothbrush or soap,” he said.
He added, “Psychologists have told us many of them are going to be scarred for life.”
The station holds unaccompanied children detained at the border and has faced criticism after lawyers who visited the facility earlier this month alleged children were being neglected. Border Patrol El Paso Sector officials who led news media on a tour of the facility recently denied the allegations.
Castro, a former San Antonio mayor and former secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, has been unable to visit several shelters, including one in Homestead, Florida, considered one of the largest detention centers in the country.
He was accompanied by El Paso Democratic state Reps. Mary González, Joe Moody and César Blanco, who are all urging immigration reform. Several supporters also held signs against migrant detention.
Castro said he has a different vision for how the broken immigration system should be fixed.
“I have said that it is a priority to repeal Section 1325 of the Immigration and Nationality Act that has made it possible for this administration to separate parents from their children,” he said.
On Wednesday, the first night of the Democratic presidential debate, Castro made repealing Section 1325 a focal point in a challenge to El Pasoan Beto O’Rourke and the other candidates.
Castro said the government needs to go back to when immigration was a civil matter, not a criminal matter.
“This playing games with people who simply want to make an asylum claim is also causing people to take risks,” he said, mentioning Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez, 25, and his 23-month-old daughter, Valeria, who drowned June 23 while trying to cross the Rio Grande after nearly making it to the U.S. from El Salvador.
A photo of their bodies on the banks of the river in Matamoros, Mexico, sparked outrage around the world.
Path to citizenship for immigrants
Castro said he also wants to put undocumented immigrants on a path toward citizenship.
“And we need to create an independent judiciary that is not under the Department of Justice and that has enough staff and judges to hear these asylum claims and other cases so that people are not waiting for years and years in limbo,” he said.
After speaking, Castro planned to visit Annunciation House, an immigrant advocacy organization, to visit with migrants before flying out of El Paso.
Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso is set to visit the Clint facility at 10 a.m. Sunday.
On Monday, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio and chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus who is Julián Castro’s twin brother, and U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, a member of the House Judiciary Committee and a freshman representative of the Hispanic Caucus, will lead a delegation of lawmakers to El Paso and Clint to investigate several facilities used to detain immigrants, a news release said.
Lawmakers set to join them include Democratic U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts, and several members of El Paso’s statehouse delegation, the release said.
María Cortés González covers entertainment and trending news in the El Paso area. Support more coverage like this with a subscription.
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