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Dems Debate Section 1325: Should Undocumented Border Entry Be A Criminal Offense?




Democratic presidential hopeful former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro speaks during the first night of the Democratic presidential primary debate
Democratic presidential hopeful former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro speaks during the first night of the Democratic presidential primary debate
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

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In one of the more contentious moments of the first night of the Democratic presidential debate, former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro called for the repeal of Section 1325. 

This is the part of the United States Code that makes entering the U.S. without documents a misdemeanor. It’s repeal would mean that entering the U.S. without papers would be a civil offense, rather than a criminal one. 

On the following night of debates, one of the moderators asked the candidates to raise their hand if they thought crossing the border without documentation should be a civil offense, rather than a crime. Eight out of ten candidates raised their hand. 

Since the debates, Democrats have debated the repeal of Section 1325. In her recent piece for the Washington Post, former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security Juliette Kayyem argued against repealing the Section, saying that most of Trump’s policies are no longer being justified by Section 1325 and moreover, that criminalizing undocumented border entry is necessary to drive people towards the legal immigration system. 

Other Dems have pushed back, arguing that Section 1325 has been used to justify family separation in the past, that it’s duplicative of the civil immigration system and that its repeal should not be conflated with open borders. 

So what exactly would the repeal of Section 1325 achieve? What are the pros and cons? And should this be the Dems’ main immigration policy focus?

Guests: 

Juliette Kayyem, former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security (2009-2011) and faculty chair of the homeland security program at Harvard; her latest piece for the Washington Post is “Decriminalizing the border is not in anyone’s interest

Michael Kagan, director of the Immigration Clinic and professor of law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas