Democratic candidate for president Julián Castro called President Donald Trump “a failure” when it comes to immigration during a town hall event hosted and broadcast by Fox News.
“In our name, little children have been separated from their mothers,” Castro said, adding that over 140,000 migrant adults and children were arrested in May at the U.S.-Mexico border and that migrants are currently “fenced in” and “kept like animals” in an outdoor makeshift camp in El Paso, Texas.
“That is the failure that this president has been in the issue of immigration,” Castro said at the event held Thursday in Tempe and hosted by Fox News personalities Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum.
“I say, we’ve tried his cruelty and his mistakes. There’s a better way to do this,” Castro added.
Castro shared his immigration plan, which includes a pathway to citizenship for most of the country’s undocumented population, funding the immigration court system to speed up case adjudication, and enhancing border security by investing in ports of entry.
Castro was mayor of San Antonio for five years and served as Secretary for Housing and Urban Development from 2014 to 2017.
He is the only Latino in the crowded field of Democrats running for president.
In Tempe, Castro emphasized his family’s immigration story as an example of how he defines America.
He said his grandmother arrived in Texas from Mexico when she was 7, settled outside San Antonio and eventually raised her family there.
“Two generations after she got to the United states, one of her grandsons — my twin brother Joaquin — is a United States congressman, and the other is running for president of the United States,” Castro said. “That is America. That is what we can do.”
Castro steers away from criticizing other Democrats
During the town hall, Castro called the GOP-approved tax plan “very irresponsible,” condemned Trump’s insults of late Sen. John McCain, and was critical of the president’s foreign policy decisions, especially his combative relationship with U.S. allies and decision to ditch the Iran Nuclear Deal.
But Castro didn’t bash any of his Democratic opponents.
Debate hosts gave Castro several opportunities to comment on statements on China and abortion from front-runner and former vice president Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., another presidential contender. Instead of taking jabs at Biden and Gillibrand, Castro spoke on underlying policy issues.
“I’m going to focus on what I believe,” he said.
When Baier pushed Castro to comment on Biden’s inconsistent position on the Hyde Amendment, a law prohibiting the use of federal funds for abortion with few exceptions, Castro explained he preferred to comment on the issue, and not the candidate.
“I don’t want to distract right now by talking about other candidates when the fact is that I need to introduce myself to a lot of people who don’t know who I am yet,” Castro said. “I don’t want them to know who Joe Biden is and what he stands for with this air time, I want them to know what Julián Castro believes and thinks.”
Castro said he supports doing away with the Hyde Amendment.
Castro is the fifth Democrat vying for the presidency to appear at a Fox News town hall. While the network is popular among conservatives, the audience at the Tempe town hall was mostly left-leaning.
The crowd of about 100 people was supportive of Castro, often clapping at his responses. State Reps. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, Raquel Terán, D-Phoenix, and Lorenzo Sierra, D-Avondale, were also present at the town hall.
Outside the venue, a small group of demonstrators flew a large “Trump 2020” flag.
Police shootings more than just ‘a few bad apples’
Michelle Rose, a Scottsdale resident in the audience, asked Castro how he would reduce the excessive use of force by police, and whether he supports a citizen review board with subpoena and firing power.
Castro responded with a line from his January speech announcing his candidacy for president.
He juxtaposed how law enforcement responded to the case of white supremacist Dylann Roof, who murdered nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina in 2015, to cases where police fatally shot black, Latino and Native American residents, some of them teenage boys.
“(Roof) was apprehended without incident, as I believe it should be … And taken into custody, taken to trial, and punished,” Castro said. “But then what about Eric Gardner? What about Stephon Clark? What about Jason Pero? What about Sandra Bland? What about Tamir Rice? What about Laquan McDonald? And what about Pamela Turner? And what about Antonio Arce, here in Tempe, Arizona.”
Arce was an unarmed 14-year-old boy shot in the back and killed by Tempe police Officer Joseph Jaen in January. The police have said Jaen was responding to a call about a suspicious vehicle.
“How many of these videos do you have to watch before we understand that even though we have some great police officers — and I’ve worked with them as mayor of San Antonio — that this is not a problem of a few bad apples, the system itself is broken,” Castro said.
Castro recently released a People First Policing plan, which proposes creating a national database that tracks officer misconduct and establishing standards to restrict the use of deadly force.
MacCallum, the co-host, asked Castro how he responds to the law enforcement community who feel his plan for reforms unfairly paints them as “the enemy.”
“Not at all. I’m always clear about the fact that I know there are good police officers out there,” Castro said. “But I also know that I’ve seen too many of these videos, read too many newspaper articles, heard from many people out there in our country, especially young black men, who are being treated differently because of who they are. And that is not acceptable in the United States.”
Castro ended his remarks by saying he believes the U.S. is the greatest country in the world.
“My campaign is about telling Americans what I think we need to do to make it better than it’s ever been before,” he said.
The first 2020 primary debate is scheduled for June 26 and 27 in Miami. Twenty of the 23 major Democratic candidates will participate, including Castro.