MIAMI (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – Two Texans went after it during a Democratic presidential debate Wednesday night.
Former Obama administration housing chief Julián Castro attacked fellow Texan, former Congressman Beto O’Rourke for not supporting fully decriminalizing the act of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.
Wednesday night’s debate was the first of two consecutive debates involving a total of 20 Democratic presidential candidates, ten each night.
Castro called for ending a section of immigration law that criminalizes people crossing the border illegally, instead of just allowing it to be a civil violation the first time.
And he called out O’Rourke.
“Some like Congressman O’Rourke have not, and I want to challenge all of the candidates to do that. I just think it’s a mistake, Beto,” Castro said.
“Actually, as a member of Congress, I helped to introduce legislation that would ensure we don’t criminalize those seeking asylum and refuge in this country,” O’Rourke responded. “If you’re fleeing desperation then I would want to make sure you’re treated with respect.”
Castro said, “I’m not talking about everyone else.”
O’Rourke said, “You’re looking at a one small part of this. I’m talking about a complete rewrite of our immigration laws.”
Castro says on day one of his presidency, he would also end President Trump’s zero tolerance policy at the border and in the first 100 days, he would give dreamers a pathway to citizenship.
Castro also decried the Trump administration’s tough immigration policies, saying the president is to blame for the deaths of an immigrant father and his toddler daughter found lying face-down after drowning in the Rio Grande.
“Watching that image of Oscar and his daughter Valeria is heart-breaking. It should also piss us all off,” said Castro.
“We would not turn back Valeria and her father Oscar, we would accept them into this country and follow our own asylum laws. We would not build walls,” said O’Rourke.
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker spoke briefly in Spanish to further chastise Trump’s policies, O’Rourke, a former congressman, took a question in Spanish and answered it, saying, “We are going to treat everyone with respect.”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says the economy hasn’t been hurt by immigrants. He says corporations are to blame.
The first hour of the first Democratic presidential debate of the 2020 cycle passed with hardly a mention of the man whom the 10 candidates on stage hope to face next November.
It was 16 minutes into the debate before President Donald Trump’s name was uttered by Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who briefly referenced him again as the debate headed into its second hour.
Responding to a question about U.S. tensions with Iran, Klobuchar said, “I don’t think we should conduct foreign policy in our bathrobe at 5 in the morning.”
Other candidates invoked the president’s name in making their arguments on immigration.
Trump was en route to Japan for the G-20 summit as the two-night event got underway. He has weighed in on the debate, tweeting, “BORING!”
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)