'It Should Piss Us All Off:' Julián Castro Slams Immigration Policy After Father and Daughter's Death

Julián Castro, who has made immigration the keystone issue of his 2020 presidential campaign, gave an impassioned answer about the current situation at the U.S. Southern border on Wednesday night's Democratic debate.

"We saw that image today that broke our hearts," Castro said, referring to a photo of a father with his daughter who drowned in the Rio Grande while trying to reach Brownsville, Texas, this week. "It should also piss us all off."

Castro then launched into his plan on immigration reform and outlined the ways he would undo the executive orders that President Donald Trump has instituted which he says has exacerbated the challenges at the border.

Senator Cory Booker and former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke than gave their answers to the question, both speaking in Spanish at times.

But Castro, likely attempting to capitalize on his moment on the stage about his key issue, interrupted O'Rourke.

Castro brought up his plan to decriminalize border crossings and admonished O'Rourke for not supporting that plan.

Claiming asylum is not illegal, but it is currently a criminal offense to cross the border without permission from the U.S. government. It's this criminal offense that has allowed the Trump administration to separate migrant children from their families. Castro would make this a civil offense instead.

"I'm talking about a comprehensive rewrite of our immigration laws," O'Rourke said, but his response went largely unheard as Castro continued to speak over him.

O'Rourke and Castro are both Texans who have made immigration a large part of their platforms. "If you did your homework on this issue" Castro said to O'Rourke at one point.

Castro's rapid response team immediately sent out an email to the press highlighting the candidate's border plan after the exchange. The email called O'Rourke out by name.

"Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke told CNN this month the law criminalizing illegal entry should remain on the books, falsely asserting that it provided a legal mechanism to prosecute human smugglers and drug runners," the email read.

O'Rourke and Castro are reported to have a longstanding rivalry against one another that started when O'Rourke ran for Texas Senate in 2018, a seat that Joaquin Castro, Julián's twin brother, was said to be eyeing.

2020 frontrunner Elizabeth Warren has supported Castro's border plan. "We should not be criminalizing mamas and babies trying to flee violence at home or trying to build a better future. We must pass comprehensive immigration reform that is in line with our values, creates a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants including our DREAMers, and protects our borders," Warren said in a statement to HuffPost on Tuesday.

Julian Castro Democratic Debate
Democratic presidential hopeful former US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro participates in the first Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida, June 26, 2019. JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images/Getty