by Chuck Ross
George Stephanopoulos on Sunday challenged Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro over whether his proposals to provide health care to illegal immigrants and to decriminalize illegal border crossings amount to open border policies.
In an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” Stephanopoulos asked Castro, who served as secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama administration, whether he gave an opening to Republicans who have accused Democrats of supporting open border policies.
“Not at all,” said Castro, who later in the interview derided claims that Democrats support open border policies as “just a right-wing talking point.”
“It always has been.”
Castro gained traction during a Democratic presidential debate on Wednesday when he said that his proposed health care plan would allow illegal immigrants to purchase health insurance. Castro also said that he wants to decriminalize crossing the border.
In a Democratic debate on Thursday, all 10 candidates raised their hands to say they would support government-funded health care for illegal immigrants.
Castro mounted a case to include illegal immigrants in his health insurance plan, saying that “undocumented immigrants already pay a lot of taxes.”
“Secondly, we already pay for the health care of undocumented immigrants,” he added. “It’s called the emergency room. People show up in the emergency room and they get care, as they should.”
But Stephanopoulos pressed Castro on how his proposals differ from a policy supporting open borders.
“The question is, at what cost, though?” Stephanopoulos asked.
“When you add up all the proposals you’re calling for right now, decriminalization of crossing the border, no deportation absent other crimes, the offer of health benefits, also a possible path to citizenship. I know you reject the rhetoric about open borders, but isn’t that effectively open borders, not limiting how — immigration in any real way?”
Castro pushed back, saying that “there’s no way that we can call that open borders because we have 654 miles of fencing, we have thousands of personnel at the border. We have planes, helicopters, boats, security cameras, guns. That’s by no stretch of the imagination open borders.”
“Open borders is just a right-wing talking point. It always has been,” he said.
Castro did not say, and was not asked, whether he would cut back on the resources and manpower currently at the border. Like most Democrats, he has opposed calls to build a wall on the border. On Feb. 21, Castro told a reporter in Iowa that he would support the removal of parts of the border wall that have been erected under Trump.
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Chuck Ross is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation. Follow Chuck on Twitter.