U.S. Rep Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, voiced his concerns about recent immigration raids and questioned the commitment of a Texas senator during a speech at East Austin's Historic Scoot Inn on Saturday.
Castro, who is considering a 2018 run against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, appeared to take a swipe at the Republican for being unresponsive to constituents who called his office to ask about recent raids conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“It was reported that a certain senator in Texas was getting so many calls that he turned off his phone”, Castro told a crowd of about 300 supporters.
Castro said that he would decide on a candidacy within eight weeks. “Politicians call you when they need your vote, they need to answer you when you need them” Castro said.
His speech addressed a variety of topics ranging from educational financing to the Democratic Party in the 2016 Presidential Election. In light of the ICE raids that occurred the night before, the topic of ICE detainments drew the most attention. Castro has asked that people send videos, photos or report any evidence of their encounters with ICE to him.
50 people were detained as of Friday morning according to a confirmation by The Mexican Consulate in Austin. Castro was in question about who ICE was looking for to provide comfort to the concerned audience, but there was not enough information to support who ICE was targeting.
"We want them to let us know if the people they're targeting are in fact violent, dangerous criminals who pose a threat to our communities, or whether they're going after peaceful people who have been here, raising their families, paying their taxes” said Castro. “We believe those folks should have legal status.”
“No wall” chanted a woman in the crowd as the rest of the audience cheered to support Castro’s vision for a path to citizenship. The congressman didn’t specify what this path would entail.
Mario Pena, a 5th grade teacher at Perez Elementary in Austin, asked the Castro, “What can we do to bring money back to the school system?”
“The legislature needs to step up and come up with an equitable, fair school finance system,” said Castro. “The fact is, to fix it, you are going to have to commit more resources and more money to our schools.”
Public education has been a longstanding issue in Texas. However, Castro is well aware of attempts by legislatures to move the attention towards other subjects. “They seem to be spending more time on how to police our bathrooms,” he said, referring to Senate Bill 6, known as the “Bathroom Bill”.
Castro echoes the concerns of the audience and recommends that people and leaders take a step back. “Throughout history there have been times where our politics become dominated by fear,” said Castro. “This is a country that welcomes people, and that is a country that we want for ourselves and for the future generations.”
After Castro’s speech, many continued to ask themselves, “what can we do?” Carmen Valera, owner of Tamale House East was amongst one of the may individuals who crowded around the congressman. One of Valera’s concerns about the Trump administration is that she feels derailed as a Latina women. However, the business owner said, “I feel a calling to do something and take action.”
Valera plans to mobilize her plan to boycott the president by encouraging all the businesses run by ethnic-minorities to close down for a day. “I feel like this will be able to put into perspective how vital we all are to America,” said Valera.“We have so much power to change the world.”
Austin Community College student and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders supporter, Andrew Dysert, had his hand raised during the entire speech because he was adamant on asking Castro, “How can we get people to be willing to stand up for a more progressive message?”
Dysert’s concerns are that people don’t trust the Democratic Party. “We are divided by the progressive message and people are not drawn to that,” said Dysert.
“Texas Democrats have not won a statewide election in over 20 years” said Castro. “We have to be vigilant and we have to look out for each other.”