BY MICHELLE L. PRICE, NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro said Thursday that the Obama administration missed an early opportunity to pass immigration reform and that he’d push the issue within months of taking office if he’s elected in 2020.
Castro, the former Obama administration Housing and Urban Development secretary, made the comments Thursday as he met with immigrants and advocates in a heavily Latino neighborhood of North Las Vegas.
Castro wouldn’t say if his former boss made a mistake by focusing on passing the Affordable Care Act health care law in 2009 and 2010 instead of immigration, but he said a comprehensive plan like the DREAM Act, which would have protected some young immigrants living in the country illegally from deportation, should have been passed.
The former San Antonio mayor is the only Latino candidate in the 2020 race and is setting himself apart from a crowded Democratic field by focusing on immigration during his visits to Nevada.
The early caucus state has active immigrant communities and a 29 percent Hispanic population.
Castro said he hopes all the candidates are talking about immigration reform but it’s a prime concern in his home state of Texas. He said the United States has a low unemployment rate and could find itself soon depending more heavily on immigrants to keep the economy humming as the population ages.
President Donald Trump has presented a false choice between border security and compassion, Castro said, and noted that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s largest-ever bust of fentanyl was caught in January at a U.S. port of entry.
“There’s not a single thing that a wall would have done to stop that,” he said. “We can be smarter about border security, but also address the fact that we have so many families that are here, that have been living in the United States for years — they’re as American as anyone else.”
(Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary and Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro speaks with Lupe Arreola, left, Astrid Silva, right, and others while visiting a taco truck, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, in North Las Vegas, Nev. AP Photo:John Locher)