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Julian Castro Touts Need For Immigration Reform On Visit To Western Iowa

Katie Peikes/IPR
Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro talks with Lorena Lopez, the editor of Denison's Spanish language newspaper, La Prensa.

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro has been meeting with voters around Iowa this week.  He’s among those seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.
Castro met with a small group of people on Friday in the western Iowa city of Denison. At an eatery called Cronk’s Cafe, he told the group that the nation’s immigration system is broken and that President Donald Trump has given the country a “false choice” between having secure borders and being humane.

“We’re always going to need a secure border and we can make investments to ensure that our border is always secure,” Castro said. “But we can also be humane and not take children away from their mothers or their fathers.”

The former San Antonio mayor, whose grandmother came to the U.S. from Mexico as a child in 1922, said the immigration system needs to be improved so people aren’t waiting decades to become legal U.S. citizens. As Castro was leaving the restaurant, Lorena Lopez, the editor of Denison's Spanish language newspaper "La Prensa", asked him to say something in Spanish. She translated it for Iowa Public Radio:

“It’s very important to respect the immigrants that live in Iowa and the United States. We have to make better the immigration system because they – Latinos, want to work here and immigrants want to work here and give to their family the opportunity to be successful in this country," Lopez said Castro said to her.

In Denison, the Latinos make up nearly 50 percent of the town’s population of 8,000. Beth Vogt who lives nine miles outside of Denison but works in town, said immigration is a central issue for the city and Castro “gets it.”

“We all know somebody here who has dealt with the immigration system,” Vogt said. “We have friends who are unable to live their life normally and reasonably because they have a family member, a loved one, a friend who is an undocumented immigrant…people who can be very important, very integral parts of our community that are so affected by this.”

Vogt continued, “For him to be able to reach across that aisle and to be able to give some answers to people who are affected so heavily by the immigration system is going to bring a lot of answers to places like Denison, Iowa.” 

Besides his stance on the immigration system, Castro has also put the Paris Climate Accord at the center of his platform. He said if he is elected president in 2020, his first executive order would be to return the U.S. to the multi-nation agreement focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions that Trump withdrew the country from in 2017.

“Because I believe we can protect our planet, be good stewards of our environment and also create jobs and opportunity that are good paying,” Castro said. “You all see that in Iowa with the wind industry. We see that in Texas with the wind industry, solar industry…”

This is Castro’s first visit to Iowa since officially announcing that he’s in the running for 2020. Denison is one of nine communities he is visiting during his swing through the state.

Castro says he plans to visit all 50 states on the campaign trail.

Katie Peikes was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio from 2018 to 2023. She joined IPR as its first-ever Western Iowa reporter, and then served as the agricultural reporter.