Julián Castro might be the answer to a trivia question one day: Who is the candidate with nearly no support who threw into a debate the unnecessary and politically destructive notion of “decriminalizing” illegal border crossings? Castro was the one, you recall, who badgered his fellow debaters to accept repeal of Section 1325 of the federal criminal code on the premise that it was necessary to end family separations.

As I pointed out at the time, Castro was dead wrong factually and politically. Section 1325 was on the books in the Obama administration; what changed was President Trump’s zero tolerance/family separation policy, which now has become a humanitarian disaster so appalling that House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) wants to prosecute the officials responsible for what amounts to child abuse. (By the way, next to Trump, the person most responsible responsible is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who refused to include common-sense, basic standards for the care of children in U.S. custody. Will he now?)

Writing for The Post, Juliette Kayyem reminds us that “little of what is being done now by the Trump administration can be laid at the door of Section 1325. Not the interior enforcement efforts that have separated families; not the ‘dreamers’ waiting in limbo; not the wall; not the changes to asylum law; not the conditions of deprivation that children are suffering under this administration.” Moreover, Castro’s misguided scheme would do nothing but open up a line of attack from Trump. Kayyem notes:

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Castro and others argue that Section 1325 is what is giving the government grounds to separate families. This isn’t true. The administration began by separating families under 1325 a year ago, but it now defends its separations as a way to protect kids . Ironic, yes, but also proof that repealing 1325 won’t stop an administration such as Trump’s from breaking up families. It also means that even if 1325 remains on the books, a future president will be free to end family separation.

The White House should be sending Castro roses for helping tie his party up in knots at a time Democrats should be pointing the finger at the inhumane, disgusting conditions in the detention centers and demanding a full house-cleaning of Border Patrol agents who might have been participating in grotesque, racist social media.

Fortunately, one Democratic contender has stepped forward with an entirely reasonable, effective approach. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) released a plan Tuesday that would, among other things, shut down detention centers that do not meet minimum standards of care, end use of privately owned detention centers, end zero tolerance and family separations (this is the problem, Booker understands), “direct DHS to end immigration raids on ‘sensitive locations’ — which today include schools, medical facilities and places of worship,” end the backlog of immigration cases, reinstate aid to Central American countries and “restore and expand policies that provide protection to Dreamers, their families, individuals with TPS, and those with DED status, and promote opportunities to help beneficiaries pursue available pathways to citizenship.” Combined with adequate funding for smart and technologically sophisticated border security, this would provide a workable, humane path to undoing the utter mess Trump has created.

In his plan, Booker specifically explains that in place of mass detention, he “would shift federal enforcement priorities from a presumption of detention to a presumption of liberty.” Instead of leaving immigrants in substandard conditions, his plan would “restore fairness and due process to the detention system by directing DHS to require probable cause within 48 hours of detention, ensure fair bond hearings for detained immigrants, require that immigrants are released into the least restrictive setting unless DHS provides evidence of a flight risk or danger to the community, and for immigration judges to take into account an immigrant’s ability to pay when setting bond.” There are common-sense alternatives to mass detention “operated in partnership with non-profit community partners, including community-based case management programs. Research has shown that such programs are ‘cheaper, more effective, and more humane’ than detention.”

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Booker deserves immense credit for having resisted Castro’s irresponsible scheme. Rather than signing onto politically toxic and unattainable schemes (e.g., Castro’s 1325 nonsense, Sen. Bernie Sanders’s Medicare-for-all), why doesn’t the field join in supporting coherent, politically viable proposals? Just a thought.

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