Julián Castro spars with Democratic front-runner Joe Biden during party's second presidential debate

Texas Tribune News

Former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary and presidential candidate Julián Castro speaks on the second night of the 2020 Democratic presidential debate in Detroit.
Former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary and presidential candidate Julián Castro speaks on the second night of the 2020 Democratic presidential debate in Detroit.
REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

DETROIT — Presidential candidate Julián Castro of San Antonio sharply criticized his party’s frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, former Vice President Joe Biden, as the pair squared off Wednesday on immigration and decriminalizing improper crossings of the U.S. border.

Castro once again advocated for the repeal of Section 1325, a provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act that criminalizes such entry into the United States, after being asked how his stance is different from having open borders.

“If you elect me president, you’re electing me not to follow. You’re electing me to lead,” Castro said. “And open borders is a right-wing talking point, and frankly, I’m disappointed that some folks on this stage have taken the bait.”

Biden then took direct aim at Castro, the former Housing and Urban Development secretary with whom he served during the Obama administration.

“I found that Julián, excuse me, the secretary, we sat together in many meetings,” Biden said. “I never heard him talk about any of this when he was the secretary.”

“If you cross the border illegally, you should be able to be sent back,” Biden added. “It’s a crime. It’s a crime.”

It was the same issue on which Castro sparred with his fellow Texan, Beto O’Rourke, in last month’s Democratic party debate.

Candidate after candidate on the stage took aim at Biden during Wednesday’s portion of the party’s second debate. But the Castro skirmish became one of the most direct and personal.

“Mr. Vice President, it looks like one of us has learned the lessons of the past. One of us hasn’t,” Castro said. The Texan then said that there still ought to be consequences if one crosses the border without authorization, but the penalties should be civil.

“We need are politicians who have some guts on this issue,” he added.

“I have guts enough to say his plan doesn’t make sense,” Biden retorted.

The stakes were high for Castro. He has yet to meet the polling threshold in order to qualify for the September Democratic debate.

Biden; U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Kamala Harris of California; Washington Gov. Jay Inslee; U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii; entrepreneur Andrew Young; and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also participated in this round of debates. O’Rourke appeared in the first round of CNN debates Tuesday night.

Castro also addressed President Donald Trump’s recent rash of tweets denigrating the city of Baltimore.

“The president is a racist, and this is just one more example of it,” Castro said.

He added that he would invest in education and work to desegregate housing in order order to address the racial divide within the country.