Things That Matter

Julián Castro Did Not Hold Back When Democrats Debated Immigration During The First Debate

Since Julián Castro first announced his presidential bid in January, he’s been looking for a breakout moment in a crowded field of Democrats. Looks like he might have gotten it during the first Democratic Debate of the 2020 election season. The former Housing and Urban Development secretary and mayor of San Antonio, seized the stage when discussing immigration and his plan to overhaul it. It was a performance that might have just separated Castro from a crowded field of contenders.

There was a 2,400-percent surge in Google searches for Castro during and after the first 2020 Democratic debate show.

Credit:@juliancastro/Twitter

Up until this point, Castro has largely been known to most folks solely for being the only Latino candidate on the Democratic side. But things have quickly picked up for him and people are noticing. He’s released multiple policies since he announced his bid, shared his personal story and has a resume fit for a serious contender. But what he’s lacked is attention.

He finally got that on Wednesday night. As he shared the stage with 10 other Democratic hopefuls like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Castro finally had his moment.

“There was more excitement when he showed command in his voice and passion and compassion, which I think you need to have as president, so he really helped himself out.” Lawrence Romo, who organized a Democratic debate watch party in Castro’s hometown, told NBC News.

The highlight of the debate was Castro squaring off against fellow Texan Beto O’Rourke.

One of Castro’s strengths has been his immigration plan which he rolled out in April. On Wednesday, he took the chance to showcase it to a national audience. But it was one particular part of it that he sees as most important, his proposal to repeal a section of U.S. law that makes it a federal crime for migrants to cross the border unlawfully.

During the debate, Castro said it’s time to “go back to the way we used to treat this when somebody comes across the border, not to criminalize desperation, to treat that as a civil violation.”

It was that policy, Section 1325 of Title 8 of the US Code, that had Castro and O’Rourke debating with one another. To this point, O’Rourke hasn’t considered repealing the policy because he feels that it might make it harder to prosecute drug smugglers and human traffickers.

Castro interrupted O’Rourke’s discussion about the deaths of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter, Valeria, migrants who died crossing the Rio Grande river.

Credit:roqplanas/Twitter

“I just think it’s a mistake, Beto. I think it’s a mistake,” Castro said. “I think that if you truly want to change the system, that we’ve got to repeal that section.”

O’Rourke responded saying that during his time in Congress he helped bring legislation that would guarantee the U.S. wouldn’t criminalize asylum seekers and refugees. Castro countered by saying that wasn’t good enough.

“I think that you should do your homework on this issue,” Castro said. “If you did your homework on this issue, you would know that we should repeal this section.”

The exchange between both candidates went viral and showed how serious of a contender Castro should be considered moving forward. While Castro has been polling in single digits so far, when it comes to Latinos, he’s registered among the top or at the top.

Being the only Latino in the Democratic field, Castro will now have to build off the momentum from his performance on the debate stage.

Credit:@selectedwisdom/Twitter

Castro has been clamoring for recognition and now he’s finally getting his moment in the spotlight. Many political pundits called him one of the biggest winners of the night, along with Warren and Booker.

Beyond immigration, Castro scored well when it came to healthcare issues like whether his health plan would cover abortion access. Castro said that his policy would cover it and that coverage wouldn’t just apply to women but also include “someone in the trans community.”

Many who never even heard of Castro before the evening took to Twitter to show their support for him. For some, just having a candidate they could relate to was enough to get their support.

“Tonight, I saw Julian Castro on that debate stage. He (like me) is the child of a single mother, coming from a Mexican immigrant family and was clearly the break-out. I got emotional. We NEED to get him to the NEXT debate,” comedian Cristela Alonzo wrote.

On a night where candidates like O’Rourke and Booker spoke Spanish as a way to connect with bilingual audiences, Castro didn’t need that. He instead saved his Spanish for his closing statement.

“On Jan. 20, 2021, we’ll say adios to Donald Trump.”

READ: Julián Castro Is Promising To Confront The Growing Housing Crisis In The US With An Ambitious Housing Plan

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