This is a rush transcript and it’s subject to change.
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NALEO is hosting the presidential candidate forum in partnership with Presenting Sponsor Comcast NBCUniversal Telemundo as part of this year’s NALEO 36thAnnual Conference (June 20-22, 2019). Taking place on June 21 at Telemundo Center headquarters in Miami, the Forum is offering candidates a unique opportunity to engage Latino leadership on the issues that matter most to the Latino community. Next follows a transcript of Hon. Julian Castro participation.
VANESSA HAUC: Secretary Castro, you have one minute for your opening remarks.
JULIÁN CASTRO: Thank you very much. Buenos días, good morning.
AUDIENCE: Buenos días.
ARTURO VARGAS: Buenos días.
JULIÁN CASTRO: It's a pleasure to be here with you this morning. First of all, let me commend you, Arturo and NALEO and Vanessa and Telemundo and all of the folks in this room that I know, in many of your own ways, are trailblazers in your community. Like you, I know the promise of this country.
You know, my grandmother came here in 1922 from Mexico as a seven-year-old orphan-- with her little sister and grew up on the west side of San Antonio, Texas. She came here in and at that time she encountered signs on storefront windows that said, "No Mexicans or dogs allowed." She didn't finish school, so she worked her entire life as a maid, a cook, and a babysitter. She raised my mom as a single parent and my mom became the first in her family to graduate from high school and then go on to college.
She became a hell-raiser, part of the old Chicano Movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. (APPLAUSE) And she raised my brother, Joaquin, and me as a single parent so that we could go even further. And to think, just two generations after my grandmother got here to this country, one of her grandsons, my brother Joaquin, is serving in the United States Congress and the other is running for president of the United States. (APPLAUSE) That is our country. That is America. And I look forward to talking to you about how we can make sure that that kind of opportunity is there for everybody in the years to come. Thank you.
VANESSA HAUC: Thank you, Secretary Castro. So, your first question, you were among the first candidates to propose and to put forward a plan on immigration reform. In it, you proposed to decriminalize undocumented border crossing, making it a civil offense instead of a criminal one, to eradicate the three and ten-year ban on re-entry for people that have been deported, and also to end the cooperation between ICE and the police departments around the nation. How are you planning to tackling all this with a very, very divided Congress? And where do you begin?
JULIÁN CASTRO: Yeah, well-- first, let me say that I'm proud that I was the first candidate to propose a comprehensive immigration plan. And I did that because this is personal for me and because it's so important to our country, because I grew up with a grandmother who was an immigrant and I know the power of immigrants in this country, and that the folks who are coming to our southern border today have the same hopes and the same dreams and the same belief in our country that generations of immigrants have had.
So, your question is what are we gonna do about the fact that we've had a very divided Washington and that over the years it's been hard to get things done? I believe that on January 20, 2021, at 12:01 p.m., we're gonna have a Democratic president, a Democratic House, and a Democratic Senate. (APPLAUSE) And-- and the lesson of 2009 and 2010 on immigration reform is don't wait. Don't wait. We're not gonna wait. (APPLAUSE) We're gonna go forward with immigration reform.
And then some folks say, "Well, what about when it gets to the Senate?" You may remember that last time immigration reform got 68 votes in the Senate, but sometimes the Senate can be a problem because they have this fil-- the filibuster that requires 60 votes. If the choice is between fixing our broken immigration system, making sure that Americans can-- can thrive because we harness the power of immigrants, and also that we treat people with basic respect-- if the choice is that or some 60-vote rule that is not in the Constitution, that has been violated over the years by both parties when they see it as convenient, then I'm gonna choose fixing our broken immigration system in 2021.
VANESSA HAUC: Would you consider using your executive power to do so?
JULIÁN CASTRO: I will. I will use my executive power in any way that I can-- for instance, immediately expanding DACA-- providing protections that we can. For instance, a good example of this is the situation with Venezuelans who are here, right. It took an act of Congress, a bipartisan act of Congress to try and protect Venezuelans with TPS. That is something that usually the administration can do and should do. And if I'm president, I'm gonna use my executive authority as much as we possibly can to protect these hardworking immigrants.
VANESSA HAUC: Thank you, Secretary Castro. Your next question comes from Arturo.
ARTURO VARGAS: Thank you, Vanessa. Mr. Secretary, we're asking the same question of all the candidates here because of how important this issue is to the Latino community and to the mission of NALEO. The nation's about to experience the constitutionally required decennial census next year under circumstances and policies that rese-- researchers, practitioners, and even three federal courts have said will result in a severe undercount, especially of Latinos. If you're elected president, what will you do to remedy the 2020 census, which will already have occurred? And how will you restore credibility and integrity in the census?
JULIÁN CASTRO: Well, and I want to thank you, Arturo, because I know that you've been working on this issue, NALEO has-- and has had forums all over the country on this to make people aware of the problem that we have here and why this citizenship question should not go on the census.
My hope is that we're gonna get a decision soon from the Supreme Court that is positive and that this question will not go on the census. If it does, then-- and I'm elected president, I will do everything that I can to make sure that we do an accurate count. As you know, this is not unprecedented for us to do this.
We have the American Community Survey that we do every year. I believe that either through that or through doing another census, that we can do a more robust count. And this is important. I know that the elected officials and appointed officials in this room understand this. This goes to how much CDBG dollars you get-- how much transportation funding you get, how much education you get.
This is important because it's estimated that up to four million people could be undercounted if this question goes on the census. And a lot of those are gonna be Latinos. And you know what the game is. The game, even if this never happens, is to scare people into not participating. I will remedy that if I'm president.
ARTURO VARGAS: Thank you. (APPLAUSE)
VANESSA HAUC: Well your last question is going to come from the Coconino County, Arizona, supervisor and NALEO board treasurer, Elizabeth Archuleta. She's a Democrat, too.
Good morning, Mr. Secretary. Yesterday at this conference, we heard from a panel of economic experts and all agreed that investing in our nation's infrastructure would further strengthen the economy. What is your plan to address our nation's crumbling infrastructure as an economic strategy?
Thank you very much for the question. Do y'all remember a few years ago that-- there was a bridge that collapsed in the Twin Cities? Do folks remember that?
JULIÁN CASTRO: Right? And at the time, it was reported that there are actually thousands of different types of infrastructure in this country that are in danger eventually of falling apart if we don't invest. And so, I've said that we need to do a big investment in infrastructure, not only in traditional infrastructure like roads and bridges-- or airports, but also 21st century infrastructure.
When I was department-- the secretary of the Department of House and Urban Development, we tried to extend broadband to families living in public housing. We need to continue to extend broadband into rural communities so that both with traditional infrastructure and 21st century infrastructure, America is poised to succeed because we've invested in people and communities like we should.
And during the course of this campaign, I look forward to providing a detailed plan on what type of infrastructure investments that we would make. Infrastructure, I'll just say as a last thing, is also important because it's about connecting the dots. Infrastructure improves the quality of life in neighborhoods, as the local elected officials see-- and know that are here today. It provides jobs and opportunity for people. Oftentimes, it makes communities safer if it's done right. And so, we are gonna do a big infrastructure package for traditional and 21st century infrastructure in this country.
VANESSA HAUC: Secretary Castro, you have (UNINTEL) for your closing remarks.
JULIÁN CASTRO: Well, you know, the other day somebody asked me, "What's the first thing that you would do if you're elected president of the United States?" And-- I told him that the first thing I would do is that-- I would sign an-- executive order recommitting the United States to the Paris Climate Accord so that we lead again on sustainability on the afternoon of January 20, 2021.
But I also told him that I actually looked forward to a moment that would come a little bit earlier in the day when it's traditional for the incoming president to usher out the outgoing president. (LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE) And-- you know, I can just imagine-- being there with my wife, Erica, and our daughter, Carina, and our son, Cristián, on the White House lawn, getting ready to say good-bye to Donald Trump and Melania Trump. And they'll be getting ready to go off to New York or Mar-a-Lago--
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Or Russia.
JULIÁN CASTRO: --or somewhere. (LAUGHTER) The helicopter will be off in the distance ready to take 'em away on the White House lawn. And right before he leaves, right before he walks off, I'm gonna tell him, "Adios." (LAUGHTER) Thank y'all very much. Thank you for everything that you do in your communities. Muchisimas gracias. Thank you.
ARTURO VARGAS: Thank you, sir.
VANESSA HAUC: Thank you, sir.
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