Dear Julián Castro: You Should Have Focused on Texas First (OPINION)

Jan 23, 2019
9:36 AM

My opinion about Julián Castro’s bid for president has a Texas-centric point of view.

You know about the Lone Star State, right? It’s where Sen. Ted Cruz of Cuban descent goes by “Ted” instead of “Rafael,” and where former Rep. Beto O’Rourke favors “Beto” over “Robert.” Only in Texas will you find a Latino Americanizing their name and a white person Hispanicizing theirs.

Nothing new here when I say that the Latino population is growing across the country, and particularly in Texas. According to July 2018 Census estimates, Hispanics make up 39.4% of the state’s population, just shy of surpassing the white population of 42%.

Despite Latinos’ strong presence in the state, the Republican-controlled government has issued multiple anti-Mexican and anti-Latino policies over the last two years.

Castro’s decision to look pass Austin and focus on the White House is a real disappointment. Local government still matters and has a huge impact on the quality of life for all residents.

In 2017, Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 4, which essentially gives law enforcement officials the power to inquire about a person’s immigration status. Organizations like LULAC and MALDEF argued the law would enable racial profiling of Latinos and deter immigrant communities from trusting law enforcement. Immigrants and allies organized in protests and rallies. Lawsuits followed but in the end a judge’s ruling left most of the law intact. The long-term ramifications of the law won’t be known for a while but the prospects are not good.

But that is not the only example.

This past summer, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton spearheaded a lawsuit with six other states against the federal government to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. More than 115,000 Dreamers call Texas home, second only to California, which has more than 200,000. These are young people who serve throughout the country as teachers, doctors and lawyers, to name just a few of the contributions they make. In August, a federal judge in Brownsville ruled that the program is likely unconstitutional but did not decide on ending it.

Each and every day, the Latino community is getting attacked in Texas these days, even when we win and fight, for instance, against the intent to erase Mexican American history. Governor Abbott continues to give consent to the federal government to run across the state for-profit prisons that cage children, jail mothers and fathers who have crossed the border seeking a better life.

Yes this past election, the Democratic contenders put up a good fight against the Texas status quo, but a Castro bid for governor may have resulted in a major shakeup. O’Rourke’s campaign for senate, even though he lost, proved that people are ready for change in Texas when given a viable alternative.

An effort by Castro to break hold of the Republican party’s control of the state would have demonstrated that he is more than national ambition but that he cares about the state that he calls home. Instead, the 44-year-old who served as mayor of San Antonio for five years and was the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Obama is now campaigning for a long-shot chance to be president.

If only he thought locally first.


Maria Gardner Lara is a journalist based out of San Antonio, Texas. You can read more of her work on her site.