The great immigration debate – our experts weigh in as the topic gets political

The great immigration debate – our experts weigh in as the topic gets political The great immigration debate – our experts weigh in as the topic gets political

July 4, 20193 min read
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As the marathon race to lead the DNC in 2020 kicks into gear with more than 16 months to go before the Presidential election – hot button topics are already beginning to boil over as the key players in a field of more than two dozen candidates look to emerge from the crowd.


At the first of what will likely be many, many debates the topic of the actual origin of undocumented immigrants being classified criminals was put out front and center by former HUD Secretary, Julian Castro. 


Castro’s quest for the statute’s annulment forms part of his People First Immigration” plan unveiled in April. Some, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Cory Booker of New Jersey, have backed the idea.
“The reason that they’re separating these little children from their families is that they’re using Section 1325 of that act, which criminalizes coming across the border, to incarcerate the parents, and then separate them,” Castro said from the debate stage. “Some of us on this stage have called to end that section, to terminate it. 
Others, he added, singling out his fellow Texan, former congressman Beto O’Rourke, have not.  – June 27, Washington Post


The subject led to a fierce back and forth among those vying for attention and clamoring to be heard.


But to get to the core of the issue requires a bit of looking back.  That’s when the media contacted an expert for context and perspective.


Prosecution was stepped up during the George W. Bush administration, in response to an increase in border crossings. Supporters of such an approach argue that it is necessary to deter unlawful entry, said Tom K. Wong, an associate professor of political science at the University of California San Diego and an adviser to the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders during the Obama administration. But the evidence is not conclusive on that point, he maintained, while the costs have been significant.  
Meanwhile, abandoning the criminal classification of unlawful entry, and treating it instead as a civil infraction, could be “immensely consequential for undocumented immigrants,” Wong said. For one, it would prevent large-scale detention and end the practice of separating children from their parents, as the adults would no longer face criminal proceedings. – June 27, Washington Post


Are you a reporter covering immigration and how it will play a role in the primaries and the upcoming election – then let us help with your research and stories.


Tom Wong is an associate professor of political science at UC San Diego and is founding director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Center at the university. He recently served as an advisor to the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) under the Obama administration and currently serves on the State of California’s 2020 Census Complete Count Committee (CCC). He is also director of the International Migration Studies Program Minor. His research focuses on the politics of immigration, citizenship, and migrant "illegality."  Tom is available to speak with media – simply click on his icon to arrange an interview.




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  • Tom  Wong
    Tom Wong Associate Professor of Political Science

    Tom K. Wong's research focuses on the politics of immigration and how it links to race, ethnicity and identity.

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