Presidential hopeful Julián Castro talks immigration, education during San Jose stop
Julián Castro talks the 2020 presidential race, immigration, health care, education and criminal justice on Friday at the Mexican Heritage Plaza in East San Jose. Photo by Kyle Martin.

Julián Castro, a Texas politician gunning to be the country’s next president, stopped Friday morning in East San Jose to share stories of his Mexican American upbringing and political history, and to ask local voters for their support in 2020.

“When I think of San Jose, I think of a community that represents the future of our country,” the presidential hopeful said, opening his speech in front of more than one hundred people at the Mexican Heritage Plaza. “A place that is diverse, a place that is growing, a place whose economy is steeped in 21st century industries.”

Castro announced his candidacy on Jan. 12. He is one of 23 Democrats hoping to take on President Donald Trump in the coming year.

He was previously the youngest member of former president Barack Obama’s cabinet, and before that served as a councilmember and mayor of San Antonio. Under Obama, the former San Antonio politician worked as secretary of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development. His twin brother, Joaquin Castro, is a member of Congress representing Texas and serves as his campaign chairman.

In an exclusive interview Friday, Castro told San José Spotlight he thinks Americans are “concerned about the power and influence of big technology” throughout the country, saying major tech companies like Amazon and Facebook “give themselves an advantage when it comes to connecting with consumers.”

One of his 2020 competitors, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, rolled out a plan to break up tech companies throughout Silicon Valley.

Castro said he wants to “find a different way” to evaluate mergers between tech companies, and said user privacy is a concern of his. He added that he would “change the way the Department of Justice analyzes” potential tech mergers.

Plans for education, immigration and health care

Surrounded by Silicon Valley politicians, educators and residents, the 44-year-old San Antonio native spoke of “a new energy, with a new vision for our country.” Castro touched on critical issues such as education, healthcare, immigration and border security and criminal justice reform.

Castro said he wants to break up ICE, delegating enforcement to the Justice Department and other federal agencies, going back to how it was “before ICE was created in the early 2000s.”

“Under my ‘People First Immigration Plan,’ ICE would not exist as we know it,” Castro said in an interview. “If what people mean by abolish ICE is that we’re not going to have ICE the department or division anymore, that’s true. If what they mean is that we’re not going to have any enforcement, then I disagree with that. Of course we’re going to have enforcement.”

Castro supports treating illegal border crossings as civil offenses instead of criminal ones.

“I believe that people are looking for a new generation of leadership in 2020,” Castro said. “We’re going to deliver a powerful message that people will respond to.”

Voters will soon see plans from Castro to explore funding universal healthcare, Pre-K and higher education, he said.

He said he plans to bring universal Pre-K for every child in America, wants to “pay teachers what they deserve,” reduce class sizes in K-12 schools and begin processes for student loan debt forgiveness throughout the country. Castro’s education plan includes measures to reduce student loan debt and provide tuition-free college at public universities — a starting point for reforming in the American education system.

Castro said because Americans are competing with well-qualified, well-educated young foreign contenders for jobs, “we don’t have a single person to waste.”

This means offering Medicare to those who want or need it, he said, while still allowing Americans to keep their private or supplemental insurance plans.

Criminal justice and social issues

Castro said he wants to legalize marijuana and push for changing the country’s criminal justice system, which includes sentencing reforms and expunging more criminal records of minority men and women.

Also on Castro’s to-do list: Passing the Equal Rights Amendment to bridge the gender and minority wage gaps, raising the country’s minimum wage to $15 per hour and providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Castro on Friday praised San Jose as a city which “really represents the direction that the United States is headed in,” adding that “there is a lot the rest of the country can learn from what’s happening here in San Jose.”

Judy Pipkin, a leader with the Santa Clara County Democratic Party, said she wants to see “more doors opened for minorities” in 2020, and attended Friday’s meeting to see if Castro is “in line with the Democratic platform.”

San Jose Vice Mayor Chappie Jones and Councilmembers Sylvia Arenas, Magdalena Carrasco, Maya Esparza, Sergio Jimenez and Raul Peralez showed up to the event to hear Castro speak.

Carrasco introduced Castro as “the next president of the United States.”

She called Trump “one of the most misogynistic demagogues that we have seen in our modern times,” and said Castro could be the one to unseat him.

Peralez told this news organization that while he hasn’t picked his candidate for president yet, he’s already started donating to some campaigns, and plans to send a check to Castro.

Contact Kyle Martin at kylebmartin96@gmail.com or follow him @Kyle_Martin35 on Twitter.

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