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Joaquin Castro: Current Immigration Laws Create "Ugly Realities"

At a meeting of state business leaders Thursday, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro said that current immigration laws create "ugly realities" and that Gov. Rick Perry "will never say the border is secure."

By Maurice Chammah, The Marshall Project
Texas House member Joaquin Castro, who is running for U.S. Congress, makes a point at a TribLive event on December 1, 2011.

Discussing immigration policies with Texas business leaders Thursday, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, said that current laws lead to "ugly realities" and need to be changed to create a path to citizenship for immigrants here illegally.

He also said that state Republican lawmakers have been guided by politics more than objective measurements in their positions on border enforcement.

"I don't think that [Governor] Rick Perry will ever say the border is secure," Castro said. "We need objective measurements for what it means to secure the border."

Castro made his comments at the annual meeting of the Texas Association of Business. Speaking of President Obama, Castro said that "no president in history has spent as much effort securing the border, which has gotten him into hot water with those on the left."

TAB president Bill Hammond agreed that the president has successfully increased border security in recent years. "I think people have misconceptions," he said. "We have gone a long way towards enforcing our border."

The Texas Association of Business has expressed support for "comprehensive immigration reform," mainly centered on "employment of essential workers by U.S. companies and organizations through a market-driven system of temporary workers."

Castro focused on the economic side of immigration, explaining that temporary undocumented workers are a necessary part of many businesses. "There are a handful of American industries that wouldn't exist without undocumented immigrants," he said. "That's not a fact people like. But it's also a fact."

Castro called on Congress to pass the DREAM Act, to make permanent residency easier for undocumented immigrants, and to create a "path to citizenship."

The comments came several days after Obama's announcement of his immigration plan in Las Vegas. A fact sheet released concurrently by the White House outlined a renewed emphasis on border security, in addition to "cracking down" on companies who hire unauthorized workers. The document also emphasized the need to "streamline" the legal immigration process and create a "pathway to earned citizenship."

While crediting the Obama administration's  law enforcement at the border, Castro lamented the results. "The results of that enforcement, as we have seen, can be quite ugly; families split apart," he said. "Certainly that is not something that I celebrate. But I understand that these folks were essentially enforcing American law. So I'd like to see changes to that. Nobody wants to see families split apart."

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