Ex-Obama HUD Chief Julián Castro Enters 2020 Presidential Race

Julián Castro, former mayor of San Antonio and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) secretary under President Barack Obama, formally declared on Saturday that he is seeking the Democratic nomination for president in the 2020 contest—an announcement that’s been expected since he launched an exploratory committee last month.

In a Saturday morning speech at San Antonio’s Plaza Guadalupe, Castro denounced President Donald Trump’s immigration policies—including his demand for billions of dollars in border wall funding that’s produced the longest government shutdown in U.S. history—and his characterization of refugees from Central and South America arriving at the Southern border as “a national security crisis.”

“There is a crisis today. It’s a crisis of leadership. Donald Trump has failed to uphold the values of our great nation,” 44-year-old Castro told the crowd. “Yeah, we have to have border security, but there is a smart and a humane way to do it. And there is no way in hell that caging babies is a smart or a good or a right way to do it. We say no to building a wall and say yes to building community.”

“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 harm and damage,” added Castro, who is the grandson of a Mexican immigrant and would be the first Latino president.

Laying out other key components of his campaign platform, Castro noted his support for Medicare for All and his rejection of corporate political action committee (PAC) money as well as his dedication to taking action to address the global climate crisis.

“As president, my first executive order will recommit the United States to the Paris climate accord,” Castro vowed, referencing the international deal that Trump ditched just months after taking office. Endorsing the Green New Deal, he added, “The biggest threat to our prosperity in this 21st century is climate change.”

Castro also decried police violence toward African Americans, particularly compared with how authorities handled Dylann Roof, a white supremacist who murdered nine black parishioners at a church in Charleston, South Carolina three years ago.

While Castro pledged to campaign on several progressive issues, following his speech on Saturday, some critics pointed to an April 2016 Politico report on a petition launched by a coalition of progressive organizations when former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was considering Castro as a running mate in the 2016 race. The groups—including Presente.org, MoveOn, DailyKos, Rootstrikers and the Working Families Party—charged that Castro’s record at HUD was disqualifying.

Citing the coalition’s calculations, Politico reported that “HUD under Castro has sold 98 percent of the long-delinquent mortgages it acquired through a program aimed at preventing foreclosures to Wall Street banks under Castro’s watch, without anywhere near the number of needed strings attached.” Some group leaders also said that as agency chief, “Castro has done too much to help private equity firms like Blackstone, instead of black and Latino communities.”

Castro is among the growing list of Democrats who have announced their plans to run for president—including Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii), who said in a video circulated by CNN on Friday that she will make a formal announcement next week, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), who launched an exploratory committee at the end of last year.