Julián Castro calls Trump's immigration policies a failure in counter-rally to president's visit

Texas Tribune News

Julián Castro, the former Mayor of San Antonio and former U.S. House and Urban Development secretary announced in January that he is a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
Julián Castro, the former Mayor of San Antonio and former U.S. House and Urban Development secretary announced in January that he is a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
 Robin Jerstad for The Texas Tribune.

SAN ANTONIO — Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro sought Wednesday evening to seize the spotlight that Donald Trump cast on his hometown with a fundraising visit, holding a counter-rally to denounce the president’s immigration policies as an “absolute failure for our country.”

“We’re here today because we believe in people first,” Castro told a crowd of a few hundred people at a park in downtown San Antonio. “We’re here today because we choose compassion over cruelty.”

The rally, which came several hours after the Trump fundraiser in San Antonio, gave the low-polling Castro an opportunity to stand out in an increasingly crowded Democratic field. He used it to showcase the immigration plan that he unveiled last week, the most detailed proposal yet by a 2020 candidate. which calls for decriminalizing illegal border crossings and instituting a 21st-century “Marshall Plan” for Central America, among other things.

It’s the most detailed immigration proposal by a 2020 contender yet, and Castro leaned into the distinction Wednesday evening as he recalled a recent headline questioning why he is the only candidate with such a plan.

He pressed the advantage at the rally, bringing up a recent headline that questioned why Castro is the only 2020 contender with such a plan.

“That’s a good question. That is a good question,” Castro said. “I mean, we know that this is the issue that this president has made front and center in his campaign. So why wouldn’t every candidate have an immigration plan?”

Castro added that he wouldn’t speak for other candidates but will speak for himself. “I’m not afraid of [Trump] on this issue,” Castro said.

The rally evoked the one that another Texas Democrat, former U.S. Senate nominee Beto O’Rourke, led in February when Trump visited O’Rourke’s hometown, El Paso, to hold his own campaign event. At the time, O’Rourke was considering a White House bid, which he announced the next month.

Castro’s rally Wednesday did not match the scale of O’Rourke’s — or garner the same national media attention — but nonetheless drew an enthusiastic audience.

“Even before he got on stage, you can just tell everybody was excited to be here and to stand behind his message,” Alyssa Valdez, 18, a high school senior who voted for O’Rourke in November but indicated she was leaning toward Castro in the presidential race due to his immigration plan.

Castro’s rally came several hours after Trump began a daylong trip to Texas with a fundraiser at the Argyle club in San Antonio’s affluent Alamo Heights neighborhood. Trump later headed to the Houston area, where he first signed two executive orders related to the energy industry in Crosby and then held another fundraiser at the Lone Star Flight Museum at Ellington Airport.

Trump didn’t acknowledge Castro on the trip like he did when

As Trump flew to Texas, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, Ronna McDaniel, told reporters aboard Air Force One that the president was set to collect at least $6 million in Houston and San Antonio, according to a pool report. The proceeds from the fundraisers were going toward Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee benefitting Trump’s re-election campaign and the RNC.