SAN ANTONIO — Assailing President Donald Trump for “a crisis of leadership,” former Obama Cabinet member Julian Castro joined the 2020 presidential race Saturday as the rush of Democrats making early moves to challenge the incumbent accelerates, while anticipation grows around bigger names still considering a White House run.
Castro, who could end up being the only Latino in what is shaping up to be a crowded Democratic field, made immigration a centerpiece of his announcement in his hometown of San Antonio, less than 200 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.
Two days after the president visited the border to promote his promised wall, Castro mocked Trump for claiming that the U.S. faces an “invasion” from its ally to the south. “He called it a national security crisis,” Castro said. “Well, there is a crisis today. It’s a crisis of leadership. Donald Trump has failed to uphold the values of our great nation.”
Castro, the 44-year-old grandson of a Mexican immigrant, said he was running for president “because it’s time for new leadership, because it’s time for new energy and it’s time for a new commitment to make sure that the opportunities that I’ve had are available to every American.”
He made the announcement as a government shutdown drags into the longest in U.S. history, and as the field of 2020 contenders widens.
Castro was San Antonio’s mayor for five year and U.S. housing secretary in President Barack Obama’s second term. He became the second Democrat to formally enter race, after former Maryland Rep. John Delaney.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has also started an exploratory committee for president, and four other Democratic senators are taking steady steps toward running. Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu elected to Congress, said this week she is planning a bid, too.
Castro is getting an early start in trying to stand out. His first trip as a candidate comes Monday, to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, where an outcry has begun as the White House considers diverting disaster funding to pay for the wall.
The impasse over paying for a border wall that Trump made a central part of his 2016 campaign has led to the partial federal closure. That stalemate, along with Trump’s hard-line immigration stands, drew sharp rebukes from Castro.
“There are serious issues that need to be addressed in our broken immigration system, but seeking asylum is a legal right. And the cruel policies of this administration are doing real and lasting harm,” he said.
He argued for securing the border in a “smart and humane way.”
“There is no way in hell that caging babies is a smart or a right or good way to do it. We say no to building a wall and say yes to building community. We say no to scapegoating immigrants, and yes to ‘Dreamers,’ yes to keeping families together.” There are about 700,000 young “Dreamers” who were brought into the U.S. illegally as children; advocates want to provide them with protection deportation and a chance to apply for citizenship.