Julián Castro brought his presidential campaign to Seattle on Friday, laying out a vision for how he said he would make the nation’s immigration system more just and humane.
Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio and the secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama administration, met with immigrant and community leaders at the headquarters of the advocacy group OneAmerica, one of five planned campaign stops in the Seattle-area on Friday. He said he’d end the Trump administration’s ban on travel from several predominantly Muslim countries, and the policies of separating families at the southern border and of forcing asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico while their claims are processed.
“Some of these people should be held personally liable,” civilly or even criminally, Castro said of Trump administration officials who carried out the family-separation policy.
He said he’d stop deportations except when someone has committed a serious crime, and promised a path to citizenship for the undocumented. He said he would break up Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an agency he says has gone overboard and needs cultural and institutional change.
But mostly, Castro, who didn’t qualify for the most recent Democratic debate, didn’t talk. He listened. Castro spoke for less than 15 minutes of the hourlong meeting.
Instead, he heard labor and immigrant leaders from across Washington state talk about what they’d like to see change.
Edgar Franks, political director for Familias Unidas por la Justicia, an independent farmworkers union based in Skagit County, talked about seeing more militarization not just on the Mexican border, but on the Canadian border, too. He talked about an increased ICE presence at the border near Blaine, Whatcom County, and around the Skagit County berry farm where most of his members work.
“It’s caused a real chilling effect in our community,” Franks said.
David Mendoza, legislative director for Front and Centered, a racial and environmental justice advocacy group, told Castro about how life expectancy in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood is 10 years lower than in Bellevue.
Hamdi Mohamed, who works for the King County Office of Equity and Social Justice, told Castro about a September trip she took to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, just before starting her job with the county. She had previously worked for Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal, and was on a State Department-arranged trip to tour the U.S. embassy, when she was stopped at the border on the way back to the U.S.
Mohamed said she gave Border Patrol agents her U.S. passport, but they focused on her place of birth — Somalia — one of the countries covered by Trump’s travel ban. They asked her when she’d become a U.S. citizen, she said, and whether she spoke English. They asked her to exit the car and brought her into secondary screening, she said, where they asked to look through her phone.
About an hour in, she said, they asked where she worked and she told them she’d been the deputy district director for a congresswoman.
“And his whole attitude just changed,” she said. “On the way out he was like ‘I hope you don’t share this with the Huffington Post.'”
“The sort of harassment that keeps existing,” Mohamed said, pausing. “It’s just unbelievable.”
“I have very much seen this campaign as trying to speak up for everyone, for people who often are not spoken up for,” Castro said. “I will continue to speak up boldly for an immigration system that is fair and just and humane instead of cruel.”