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Julián Castro On His 2020 Presidential Platform And Living The 'Immigrant American Dream'

Julian Castro, candidate for the 2020 presidential nomination, speaks at Saint Anselm College on Jan. 16, 2019, in Manchester, N.H. (Mary Schwalm/AP)
Julian Castro, candidate for the 2020 presidential nomination, speaks at Saint Anselm College on Jan. 16, 2019, in Manchester, N.H. (Mary Schwalm/AP)

Democratic candidates in the 2020 presidential election are already crisscrossing the country, trying to gain traction ahead of next year’s primaries.

One of them is   Julián Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio and secretary of Housing and Urban Development under former President Obama, who’s hoping to be the first Latino president of the United States. Castro says on Day One in office, his first step would be signing an executive order recommitting the U.S. to the Paris climate agreement.

“And the first major piece of legislation that my administration would submit to Congress is on universal health insurance. So those are two things that I would focus on right away,” Castro ( @JulianCastro) tells Here & Now‘s Robin Young.

Castro’s grandmother came to the U.S. from Mexico as a 7-year-old orphan. She worked as a maid, cook and babysitter while raising Castro’s mother Marie as a single parent. Marie was a political activist, and both of her sons went on to careers in politics — Castro’s brother Joaquin has represented Texas’ 20th Congressional District since 2013.

Coming from a family for which immigration has meant opportunity — and from Texas, a state at the center of the border-security debate — Castro says a solution to tension surrounding the U.S.-Mexico border doesn’t have to come at the expense of compassion.

“We’ve lived this immigrant American dream experience. I share the belief that this country can continue to produce that kind of American dream,” he says of his family’s experience. “Of course I believe in a secure border. But I think that we can achieve border security and also not lose who we are.”

Interview Highlights

On whether he supports “Medicare-for-all,” a proposal put forth in Congress by Sen. Bernie Sanders that has split some Democratic presidential candidates

“What I believe we need to do is to be the smartest, the healthiest, the fairest and the most prosperous nation on earth. So in order to become the healthiest nation on earth, we need a different health care system. I grew up with a grandmother who had diabetes, and as her condition got worse and worse, we were very fortunate that she had Medicare. I believe that Medicare should be there for everybody.

” … We’re going to have to find different ways, different revenue streams, to pay for it, including looking at raising the top marginal tax rate, raising taxes on people that are making more than a million dollars. I think that we need to ask people at the top to pay their fair share.”

“To me, what I believe is that everybody should have the ability to enroll in Medicare. If somebody wants a supplemental plan or a private plan, then I believe they should be able to do that as well. On the political end, I’m not going to get caught up in the back and forth. I believe in my own vision for the future of the country, that is based on what families need to thrive. More education than ever, because jobs require more skill and knowledge than ever before. They need health care. They need a justice system that is fair, no matter the color of their skin or their sexual orientation. That’s what I’m going to focus on during the course of this campaign.”


On being accused as HUD secretary of selling homes headed for foreclosure to Wall Street after the housing crisis, instead of turning them into low-income housing, as some advocates were calling for

“It was a very odd attack back then. It came in the middle of the vice presidential selection process, and that program that they talked about had been around before I got to HUD, and I was actually the one that came in and said, ‘We’re going to change this, we’re going to improve the program.’ And we did improve the program. So I just saw it as kind of an off-base, you know, attempt by some individuals and some groups to score some political points. The other thing is that that coalition, Color of Change, that was one of the organizations that had signed onto it, actually took their name off of that attack once they understood what we were already working on.”

On his Catholic faith, and those who equate being Catholic with being against same-sex marriage and abortion rights

“I grew up Catholic. The Catholic faith has played an integral role in my life. At the same time, I don’t think that there is a single person that doesn’t have some disagreements with their faith. And so I’ve also been clear that I’m pro-choice. I recognize that there are people of different faiths in this country, and there are people that choose not to believe, and that our Constitution recognizes that difference between one’s faith and the governance of this country.”

On wanting to hit the ground running if elected president

“I actually believe that one of the lessons of 1993 and 1994, as well as 2009 and 2010, is that when a Democratic president has the opportunity — with a Democratic Congress — that you shouldn’t wait to push significant legislation, whether it’s health care, immigration reform, other measures.”

Jill Ryan produced this interview and edited it for broadcast with Todd Mundt. Jack Mitchell adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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