Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden blasted fellow Democrats who want decriminalize illegally crossing the border, saying Wednesday it would be an invitation to a new surge of illegal immigration from across the world.
Mr. Biden distanced himself from the Obama years, when the administration set records for deportation, saying he would not go back to years of 400,000 removals a year.
“Absolutely not,” he said at Democrats’ presidential debate in Detroit.
But he said proposals to end the criminal penalty against jumping the border would be a bad idea.
“What do you say to all those people around the border who want the same thing?” he said. “You should be able to, if you cross the border illegally you should be able to be sent back. It’s a crime.”
The debate over decriminalizing illegal immigration has exposed a deep division within the Democratic presidential primary field.
Julian Castro, a former Cabinet official for President Obama, drove the issue at the first debate last month, saying the law making illegal immigration a misdemeanor was part of the source of last year’s family separations at the border.
On Wednesday he bristled at criticism from former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson — who served on the Obama Cabinet with him — and who said decriminalizing illegal border crossings was part of an invitation to more illegal immigration.
“Open borders is a right-wing talking point and frankly I’m disappointed,” Mr. Castro.
Sen. Cory Booker jumped in, accusing Mr. Biden of adopting GOP policies by saying he wanted to reward high-skilled foreigners who get higher degrees from U.S. universities.
He said that pitted migrants against each other.
“Some are from s—-hole countries, and some are from working countries,” he said, using an expletive that Mr. Trump reportedly used to describe some less-well off countries sending migrants to the U.S.
• Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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