Castro hopes to become first Latino president

GOFFSTOWN – Though never using President Donald Trump’s name, 2020 Democratic primary candidate Julian Castro on Wednesday came out swinging against the administration’s practice of separating immigrant children from parents at the southern border – and the plan to build a wall.

“The vast number of Americans do not agree with the president’s policy,” Castro said during the Politics & Eggs breakfast at Saint Anselm College.

Visiting a processing center at the southern border on Father’s Day, Castro said he was heartbroken to see Trump administration officials taking children from parents.

“But what gave me hope was people protesting,” and “so many protesting who didn’t look like me,” he said.

Mere days after he announced he is running for president in 2020, Castro came to New Hampshire playing up his humble Latino background, saying his grandmother immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico in the 1920s and worked as a maid and housekeeper.

“She could never have imagined that one grandson would be a member of Congress, and another grandson a candidate for president of the United States of America,” Castro said. His twin brother, Joaquin, is a U.S. representative for Texas’ 20th Congressional district.

Julian Castro worked as U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development secretary under President Barack Obama after serving as mayor of San Antonio.

After confirming his presidential bid, Castro’s first visit was to Puerto Rico, where he wanted residents of the U.S. territory to know “everyone counts. Even though Puerto Ricans cannot vote in the general election for president, they can participate in the primaries.

“We have an administration that doesn’t believe that,” he said.

Castro called the American Dream, “not a sprint, but a relay” in which we pass on opportunity to the next generation, but the U.S. is “in danger of dropping that baton.”

As president, Castro said, “I want to make sure the opportunity that was available to me is available to everyone.”

With the goal of the country becoming the “fairest, healthiest and smartest” in the world, he discussed investing in pre-kindergarten education and making sure every student is able to access some form of higher education, without “drowning in debt.”

Describing his grandmother’s struggle with diabetes, he said, there is “no reason in the wealthiest nation in the world anyone should go without health care.”

Castro’s audience applauded that statement and also applauded his vow to recommit the U.S. to the December 2015 Paris climate agreement, as well as his plan to invest in mental health care for veterans.

“We don’t have to choose between creating jobs and protecting the planet,” he said.

He also talked about raising the minimum wage, providing affordable housing and dealing with cybersecurity threats.

Castro responded to a question about the current Medicare system by saying he believes “government has a role in making sure a traditional safety net is there for people.”

Noting that many ambassador positions are currently unfilled and the State Department is losing personnel, Castro said the country should “harness the peace-making functions of our government.”

John Broderick, former chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, asked a question about the stigma of mental health care. Overcoming it, Castro said, “starts with the courage of individuals willing to speak up … and we all have the responsibility to meet them half way.”

The 44-year-old Castro currently ranks ninth on The Telegraph’s list of 2020 Democratic contenders.

The Politics & Eggs is a forum for presidential candidates, political leaders and commentators who visit New Hampshire. The wooden eggs on each table are presented for speakers to sign. The series is a joint initiative of The New England Council and The New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.

On Feb. 12, another Democratic candidate, former Maryland congressman John Delaney, will be at the Bedford Village Inn.