Interview with San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro

Interview with San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro

By John King, USA - July 13, 2010

KING: A lot of eyes are on a rising Democratic star in Texas. Julian Castro (ph) was only 26 when he became the youngest person ever elected to the City Council. Now at the ripe young age of 35, he's San Antonio's mayor, the youngest mayor of a top 50 U.S. city. It is a job that puts him in the middle of big debates over immigration, diversity, jobs and more and the mayor is here with us to go "One-on- One". Thank you.

You are in Washington today and this town is torn over what to do on a number of issues that directly affect your city and your community. Let's start with immigration. Should the Democrats in Congress bring to the floor what they call comprehensive immigration reform before the midterm elections? Some in the party are quite nervous. They think that would hurt, not help.

MAYOR JULIAN CASTRO (D), SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS: I think that this is an issue that has been on the table for three or four years now and is one that's ripe for legislation, because if you think about it, folks on both sides, folks who agree with SB 1070 (ph) in Arizona and folks who disagree are saying the same thing, which is that the federal government needs to do something on immigration. And the rest of it I think is working out the details, but you know I've watched Washington long enough to know that oftentimes the political takes precedence over policy.

KING: To that point, you disagree with the Arizona law.


KING: And yet do you share the governor's frustration and her belief that Washington has failed?

CASTRO: I do. I think that Washington can do much more, both to secure the border and also to ensure that the 12 million folks who are here have a pathway to citizenship after they've learned English, after they've paid a fine, after they go back to the end of the line so that you're not faced with folks who are literally living in the shadows, but still contributing to the economy of the United States of America.

KING: The president of the United States promised the Latino community he would have a bill in his first year. He promised this would be a big priority. It obviously has not been dealt with yet. We're a year and a half into the administration. The big question mark is whether it will be dealt with this year. Has he failed to keep that political promise to your community?

CASTRO: Well, there's no question that a year has passed and that that action has not happened. But I wouldn't say -- I wouldn't call President Obama a failure on this issue. I think most reasonable folks understand that there has to be a calculation about whether you're going to get legislation passed or not.

KING: Help, because of your unique position, us understand one of the bigger challenges of this. You are on the cutting edge of the demographic change that's changing America, and that complicates and, in some cases, causes fear in this debate. Nationally, about 15 percent, 16 percent of America are Latinos. In Texas, it's about 36, 37 percent. But in your city, it is 61 percent. You already have a majority Latino city. If you look around the state of Texas, if you look around in Arizona, where this demographic change is happening fast, some of this is born of resentment and fear, is it not, of that change?

CASTRO: I think that there is a kind of fear animating some of this. A few years ago, Arthur Schlessinger wrote a book "The Disuniting of America," and there's this fear sometimes that America is going to get balkanized if you have this inflow of Hispanics and Mexicans from Mexico. And the nation has a lot to learn from San Antonio, because it is a city that's about 60 percent Hispanic. Yet, it's one of the most successful cities in the country right now, the seventh largest city, the second largest city in Texas, been ranked as one of the most recession-proof cities. It's a hub for military medicine and so forth. Our unemployment rate is about 2.5 points underneath the national average.

So you have a community there that's learned to work together.

KING: Sometime in the next decade, there will be more Latinos in the state of Texas than there are Anglos. That will happen sometime in the next five to eight to ten years. Yet, right now, in your state, Democrats tend to get the higher percentage of the Latino vote, and yet Republicans control all 29 statewide offices. What is happening in the state of Texas?

CASTRO: Well, they do. You know, Texas has quite a history of being a one-party state. For many, many years, until really the late 1970s or early 1980s, it was a solidly Democratic state. And for about a decade now, it's been solidly Republican. But the demographic changes that are taking place in the state, as you mentioned, certainly will make it interesting.

And I do think that what you see now, for instance, in the governor's race, with the former mayor of Houston, Bill White, running a competitive race against Rick Perry, the current governor -- you see some of that demographic change sort of impacting those numbers. That's only going to, I think, become more and more prevalent in the future.

The thing is that the Hispanic community, though, is not monolithic politically. George Bush was able to capture a significant percentage of the vote when he was Texas governor and when he ran for president. So the vote is there for the taking, as long as either party is responsive to the concerns that the community has.

KING: Jorge Ramos was on the program last week. And he said he is convinced -- Jorge Ramos, obviously, the anchor on Univision. He is convinced the first Latino president of the United States has been born. He said maybe it's his daughter, maybe it's you.

CASTRO: Well, I think -- you know, that's an open question of who it's going to be. I think the first issue in Texas is, as you said, there are 29 statewide offices and zero of them are Democrats.

KING: You need to be governor, first, is that what you're telling us?

CASTRO: I think for, first, for any 35 years old. Right now, I'm the mayor of San Antonio. And I was born there and grew up there. so that's what I'm focused on doing. But Texas is a fascinating state. It's been very economically successful in the short term, but has a long way to go in terms of education and other things. It will be interesting to see how the state develops in the future.

KING: Do you agree with the basic premise that the first Latino president of the United States is among us now, has been born?

CASTRO: I think that's true. If you think about tit, President Obama was born in 1961. So, on the day that Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" Speech, little did he know that already there was Barack Obama having been born in the United States of America, and one day he would be president.

KING: Mr. Mayor, we thank you for your time.

CASTRO: Thank you.


John King, USA

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