Castro’s positive vision

EDITORIAL

BY ART CULLEN

If we want to begin to solve the refugee crisis of all Latin America, we should pay more attention to Julian Castro. The former mayor of San Antonio and Democratic presidential candidate has laid out a detailed vision that meets the promise of Lady Liberty and provides for our own sovereignty: provide a pathway to citizenship for otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants, assist refugees in seeking asylum, devote more resources for immigration judges and staff to process cases, and set new visa limits that recognize workforce demands.

His two most important proposals are these:

Decriminalize immigration. Make it a civil penalty similar to a traffic ticket. If a father trying to feed a family crosses the border from Juarez to rural Texas, where a job exists in a cattle lot scooping manure, and is caught he becomes a criminal. If he does it a second time he becomes a felon. We watched a judge sentence 13 such men on a routine Tuesday morning in Las Cruces, N.M. He warned them that if they ever returned he would have to throw them in prison for a year. They stood before him, heads down, knowing they were doomed to return to a life of despair. They are no more criminal that any one of us. It eats at the judge every time he hears the sad stories, and he wishes them “Vaya con Dios (Go with God)” as they are ushered back to detention and deportation. Make them pay a fine, and then let them scoop manure with realistic workforce visas. Let their children become American citizens. It is what made America great.

Develop a Marshall Plan for Latin America. Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras have been mired in civil conflict as long as we can remember, with intermittent respites of peace brokered by the United States. Considering that much of the misery in Central America is seeded in US colonialism and propping up brutal dictators, it is appropriate that we should take a leading role in finally helping the region develop its potential with our support. We don’t need troops at the border of Venezuela and Colombia, we need to provide these nations with a pathway to economic security and real democracy. That’s what Castro proposes — the United States offering a helping hand rather than a gunship off Veracruz. We rebuilt Europe into an economic powerhouse. We can help Latin America do the same, while improving our security and developing a pan-American economic juggernaut. We can deliver people from poverty in San Salvador so they do not have to crash our border at the risk of their own lives. Castro calls us to believe in the power of American enterprise when it offers a leg up instead of a boot on the throat.

President Trump says we are “full up.” Can’t take anymore.

Julian Castro is the grandson of a woman who emigrated from Mexico through Eagle Pass, Texas. His twin brother is a member of Congress from San Antonio. They embody the American Dream. We can take a lot more of the Castro brothers. They remind us how America is built from the humblest origins, and how immigrants and their children reinvigorate us.

Other candidates rightly condemn President Trump for his cruel and inhumane treatment of refugees. Their calls to legitimize Dreamers and refugees, and opposing a border wall, are clear and welcome. The National Association of Evangelicals this week urged the Administration not to cut off the meager funding in place for Central America as Trump would like. Most people are horrified when they see children in cages.

Castro offers a positive alternative to the fear. He does not propose merely ending the war on poor indigenous people. He offers a vision of economic opportunity north and south of the Rio Grande. He has lived the immigrant experience. The only other candidate who comes close to Castro’s appreciation of immigration issues is Beto O’Rourke, who was reared in the Borderlands surrounding El Paso.

Like John Delaney, Castro is a candidate not registering in the polls but who has campaigned in Iowa long and steadily. Each deserves to be heard. We described how Delaney offers original ideas on revitalizing rural America and the Rust Belt. Castro deserves our admiration for carrying the flag on immigration in a way that appeals to our patriotic sensibilities and pride. He not only condemns Trump’s policies as racist, amounting to state-sponsored kidnapping in violation of domestic and international law, but he paints a vision of a nation that once again embraces all people, including the indigenous, as full stakeholders in freedom as a basic human right.

All the Democrats should take up Castro’s cause. It is the optimistic antidote to Trump that recognizes the basic American sense of fairness.