(Bloomberg) -- Julian Castro, the former San Antonio mayor and Obama administration housing secretary, slammed President Donald Trump’s policy of separating families at the southern U.S. border a day after announcing his 2020 White House bid, highlighting what is likely to be a principal issue in his campaign.
“What I believe is that he’s created a tragedy at the border,” Castro said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “This policy of separating children from their parents and the terrible way that Customs and Border Protection has managed its responsibilities -- including the deaths of two children within the last few weeks - that’s a real tragedy.”
Castro said a comprehensive approach to immigration policy is needed. He also said that he disagrees with the administration’s goal of detaining families together as they seek asylum or refugee status, saying that other approaches such as using ankle monitors are more humane and can be effective to track people who enter the U.S. and are awaiting court proceedings. That approach was used during the Obama administration.
Castro’s comments come after his Saturday entry into the presidential contest, as he worked to get an early jump on what’s shaping up as a crowded field of Democratic candidates. Castro is a rising star in the Democratic Party -- he was a contender to be Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016 -- but he’s entering a primary race that’s likely to include candidates with higher national profiles and well-established fundraising operations.
At his Saturday announcement before a cheering crowd in his home town of San Antonio, Castro said that “we’re going to make sure that the promise of America is available to everyone.’’ Besides immigration, his platform so far highlights Medicare for all, universal access to a prekindergarten education and higher taxes for corporations and wealthier Americans to generate funds for domestic needs.
Castro took the first step toward a run in December when he formed an exploratory committee that allowed him to raise and spend a limited amount of money to test whether he can generate support for an official bid.
Democrats are piling on for the opportunity to take on President Donald Trump, whose job approval rating halfway through his four-year term hovers around 42 percent, according to a Real Clear Politics survey of recent polls.
At 44, Castro would be one of the youngest candidates, a generation younger than potential competitors such as Senators Bernie Sanders, 77, and Elizabeth Warren, 69, as well as former Vice President Joe Biden, 76. Yet with so many better known contenders considering the race, including fellow Texan Beto O’Rourke, Castro will have to work to stand out. He only barely registers in polls and sometimes isn’t included as an option at all.
Warren, of Massachusetts, formed an exploratory committee at the end of last year and has campaigned in Iowa, which in February 2020 will hold the first contest in the months-long slog of caucuses and primaries leading up to the nomination. Former Maryland Representative John Delaney also has formally entered the race.
Among the other possible candidates expected to make decisions soon are Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California. Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard said on Friday she plans to run and will soon make a formal announcement.
Castro is leaning on his life story -- from the grandson of a Mexican immigrant to Harvard Law School and beyond -- to sell an optimistic take on the need to keep the American Dream alive for all.
“Today we’re falling backwards instead of moving forward,” he said at his announcement event Saturday. “And the opportunities that made America, America are reaching fewer and fewer people.”
Speaking about his grandmother, Victoria, Castro said: “I’m sure she never could have imagined that just two generations later, one of her grandsons would be serving as a member of the United States Congress and the other would be standing with you here today to say these words: I am a candidate for President of the United States of America.”
Castro is a fluent Spanish speaker, a possible advantage in states with large Hispanic populations such as Florida and Arizona. He addressed Saturday’s crowed in English and Spanish, and a mariachi band performed during the event. Castro attended public schools in San Antonio before going to Stanford University and then Harvard.
Running a City
He’ll also be able to tout his experience in the federal government and in running a major city. He was mayor of his hometown of San Antonio from 2009 until 2014, when he joined Obama’s cabinet as secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
If he wins, he’d be the first identical twin elected president. His brother, Joaquin, is a member of the House from Texas. Joaquin Castro will be chairman of his twin’s campaign. Castro’s first stop as a presidential candidate was expected to be in Puerto Rico on Sunday.
Michael Ahrens, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said in an emailed statement that Castro “has made history by becoming one of the biggest lightweights to ever run for president. He was a weak mayor who couldn’t even handle being HUD secretary.”
--With assistance from Todd Shields.
To contact the reporters on this story: Emma Kinery in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org;Laura Litvan in Washington at email@example.com
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