National Spotlight: Interview with Joaquin Castro
By Russell Brooks
The BlueView inaugurates a new feature this month by focusing on a nationally-
recognized Democratic Party leader. To mark Hispanic Heritage Month, the
Democrat in the spotlight is Congressman Joaquin Castro, who represents Texas’s
20 th Congressional District.
Rep. Castro is from San Antonio, a second generation Mexican-American, raised
in the city’s West Side, and a product of the public school system. Joaquin’s respect
for public service developed at a young age and was deeply influenced by his
parents’ involvement in political movements and civic causes. His father, a retired
teacher, and his mother, a renowned community activist, instilled in him a deep
appreciation for the democratic process and the importance of serving one’s
community. Joaquin graduated from Stanford University with honors and then
received his Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School in 2000. Returning to San
Antonio, he practiced law before being elected to the Texas State Legislature. He
served five terms in the legislature before winning his seat in the House of
Representatives in 2012. He is the Ranking Member on the Western Hemisphere
Subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs Committee and also sits on the Intelligence
Many of you may know that Joaquin’s identical twin brother, Julián, is a former
mayor of San Antonio and served as the Secretary of the Department of Housing
and Urban Development (HUD) from 2014 to 2017 in the Obama Administration.
Congressman Castro, thank you for sitting down for this interview for The
BlueView. Let’s begin with a basic question since some of our readers may not be
familiar with you. Why did you get into politics?
Castro – “I grew up in a family that was very involved in the Mexican
American Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s. I believe when
government works right, it can make a real difference in people’s lives,
whether it be through creating jobs, improving schools, health care, all of
Who inspired you?
Castro – “If I had to name just one person, I’d say the former mayor of San
Antonio, Henry Cisneros, I took inspiration from him. He went to school with
my mom. He was a great mayor and became a leading figure in national
politics, one of the first Latinos to achieve such recognition.”
What were your biggest obstacles early on?
Castro – “In terms of obstacles, money was the biggest, trying to make a living
and run for office. It took a leap of faith to quit my job and run for office
against an incumbent. Today, with a family, it would be harder to make that
What did you hope to accomplish in Congress?
Castro – “To work on issues that I couldn’t as a state legislator — such as my
foreign affairs work, or my work on the Intelligence Committee, or efforts at
the national level to improve access to educational opportunities, especially
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment in Congress?
Castro – “If I had to pick a piece of legislation, it would be the Global Child
Thrive Act (HR 4864), which expands early childhood education around the
world, and my work around increasing Latino representation in the media,
trying to fill the void in the narrative in how Latinos are portrayed in
television and film.”
What are the special challenges of being a Latino legislator?
Castro – “Our communities are generally of modest means. I have a working-
class district so it’s especially important for me to remember the importance
of health care affordability and job creation for my constituents. Many of my
colleagues in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have similar concerns that
are extremely important to their constituents.”
Many young minorities question the value of being politically involved, what
would you say to them?
Castro – “I want them to get involved and participate in making the system
more responsive, otherwise what they are likely to get will be frustrating and
disappointing to them. They can help us push to address issues like a pathway
to citizenship for DREAMers, immigration reform, and greater economic
equality. They can be a part of changing the system for the better.”
Some Democrats question whether President Biden should run for reelection, what
is your opinion?
Castro – “I believe President Biden has the best chance of beating former
President Trump. President Biden made the decision to run again based on his
capacities and his health, and I support him.”
Many people believe the federal government, both the Administration and the
Congress, are failing to handle the crisis at the southern border. Do you agree and
what would you recommend?
Castro – “I agree. There is a sense that our system is broken, and frustration
has grown over the years. The solution is not to depart from what America
has stood for, but to provide the resources to local communities, cities like
Chicago and New York, and various states so they can handle their challenges.
In addition, we must work with other countries in the Western Hemisphere to
address the root causes of migration and develop regional strategies for
You are the ranking member on the Western Hemisphere subcommittee. As the
United States focuses on the Indo-Pacific and of course, the events that are taking
place in the Middle East, will our relations with Latin America and the Caribbean,
once again be pushed aside for what some consider to be more strategic issues?
Castro – “I hope not. Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia have taken a
backseat in U.S. policy for too long, which has left an opening for China. We
have a lot of work to do to help countries sustain democracy and respect
We should make a commitment to nearshoring as well to help our neighbors
in the Western Hemisphere We have to recognize that our neighbors are
extremely important to our national security and our economic prosperity.”
Is there any reason to hope for comprehensive immigration reform in the near
Castro – “I am an eternal optimist. If you give up hope, you probably
shouldn’t be in this job. We have to keep pushing for the comprehensive
immigration reform that Americans want.
We must get beyond the Trumpist view of immigrants as a threat to our way
of life, and see them for who they truly are: people looking for a better life,
who bring vitality, energy, and a love for what it means to be an American.
We came close to passing immigration reform a decade ago but the speaker at
that time, John Boehner, wouldn’t bring a bipartisan bill to the floor for a
vote. We must try again and succeed. We need to break this Trump fever.”
We have a very important election coming up in Virginia, what message do you
want to deliver to Democrats in the state?
Castro – “Please reach out and talk to every community, especially the Latino
community. They can be great allies. We learned in Texas about reaching out,
and not taking any community or group for granted. We must engage Latinos,
knock on doors, and listen to them. We can’t let them get away from us.”
Thank you very much Representative Castro.