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'I Have To Ask You This': Julián Castro Pressed By Immigration Activist, Rancher

Off Script | NPR
Julián Castro is interviewed by two undecided voters at Mi Tierra in San Antonio as part of NPR's series "Off Script.""

What do you want to ask the 2020 presidential candidates?

Off Script, a new NPR series about presidential hopefuls, gives voters the chance to sit down with candidates and get answers to their questions.

In this first installment of Off Script with NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro, two undecided Texas voters sit down with Julián Castro, former secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and ask him about immigration and climate change.

They met in San Antonio at Mi Tierra, a restaurant with a lot of history for Castro. He is featured in a mural on the wall and it's also where he took his wife on their first date.

Dani Marrero Hi, an immigration rights organizer, is a registered Democrat who voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. Born and raised in border cities in both Mexico and Texas, she supports Castro's opposition to border wall construction, but she wants more clarity on other aspects of his border policies before he gets her vote — like whether he'd come to help escort migrants cross the border to Brownsville, Texas, and how he'd change the asylum-seeking process. Currently, the Trump administration's Migrant Protection Protocol policy requires that asylum-seekers live in Mexico to await a decision on their immigration claims.

"I would immediately issue an executive order ending the Migrant Protection Protocol or 'remain in Mexico' policy," Castro said. "It's a disaster of a policy."

Alston Beinhorn, the second voter, is a retired banker and rancher who also backed Clinton in 2016. Beinhorn says the hot Texas days have gotten much hotter since he started raising livestock in the 1970s, and that is unsustainable for animals and people who work outdoors. But curbing greenhouse gases is a hard sell among ranchers because cattle are a top contributor to the planet's methane problem. Beinhorn wants to know: How would Castro enlist the support of voters to change their minds on climate change when it's not immediately in their economic interest?

Castro last month proposed a plan to combat climate change, which would recommit to the Paris climate accord, set a goal of getting to net-zero carbon emissions in the U.S. by 2045 and offer economic support for farmers to help meet climate goals.

Then he says he can address "this challenge of OK, well, are there sacrifices that we need to make," he says. "I actually believe that we can both do right by our planet and also unleash a clean energy revolution in terms of jobs."

Off Script is edited and produced for broadcast by Ashley Brown and Bridget de Chagas. Eric Marrapodi is Off Script's supervising editor.