(From left) Julián Castro and Donald Trump.
(From left) Presidential hopeful Julián Castro and President Donald Trump. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier and Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Presidential hopeful Julián Castro held a rally at Hemisfair Park on Wednesday as President Donald Trump made stops in San Antonio and Houston for private fundraisers.

San Antonio’s former mayor took the stage at the evening rally to rail against Trump’s policies days after unveiling his own comprehensive plan to reform the U.S. immigration system.

“I am the only 2020 Democrat that has an immigration plan. Why is that?” Castro said, as the crowd  of more than 250 people erupted into cheers. “Trump wants us to believe that we have to choose between a border that is secure and compassion, and I am here to show our country that there is a better way to do this. We can choose compassion, not cruelty.”

Julián Castro shakes hands of his supporters after speaking at the rally.
Julián Castro shakes hands of his supporters after speaking at the rally. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Castro went on to outline intentions to recommit to the Paris Climate Accord, raise the number of refugees the United States allows into the country, bring deported Veterans home, and raise the minimum wage.

“We know we need a change, and it’s time for truth in this country,” Castro said.

Meanwhile, Trump made a stop in San Antonio for a private luncheon fundraiser at the Argyle Club in Alamo Heights before departing for Houston for a scheduled fundraising dinner at the Lone Star Flight Museum. It was the second time Trump had come to San Antonio to raise funds. In 2016, Trump held a private fundraiser co-hosted by Dennis Nixon, the CEO of IBC Bank, and real estate developer Gene Powell at the Oak Hills Country Club.

Speaking at the Argyle on Wednesday, Trump pledged to send more military troops to the border amid a surge in migration from Central America. “Dangerous people are coming here and the good people are dying,” he said, according to the Dallas Morning News.

The Argyle is located at 934 Patterson Ave.
The Argyle is located at 934 Patterson Ave. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Castro has dubbed his immigration plan the People First Immigration Policy, which calls for creating a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, and residents with Temporary Protected Status, among other reforms.

Announcing the policy has given Castro’s candidacy a recent boost in media coverage. But Castro told the Hemisfair crowd that while he knows he’s not considered a frontrunner, he doesn’t consider that a bad thing.

“I grew up on the West Side of San Antonio and I am proud of it,” he said. “I didn’t grow up as a frontrunner. The people who grew up with me were not frontrunners. There are a lot of people in America right now who don’t feel like frontrunners, and I am going to knock on their doors and speak to them about how their children can get a better education and get ahead.”

Jesse Mata, a spectator at Wednesday’s rally, told the Rivard Report that despite it being early in the election season, Castro already has secured his vote.

“You can tell there is honesty behind what he is saying to us, and you can tell that he gets it,” Mata said, referring to how immigration and closing the border would affect the Texas economy. “He is listening to us.”

Castro’s polling figures continue to hover around 1 percent, on level footing with U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) and political outsider Andrew Yang’s longshot bid. Former Vice President Joe Biden, who has yet to formally announce his candidacy, and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) are at the top of the heap with average polling figures of 30 percent and 21 percent, respectively, according to RealClearPolitics.

In an email to supporters Wednesday morning, Castro wrote that he was seeking 5,000 individual donations ahead of the President’s arrival. Castro has said he is short of the 65,000 contributions required to earn a spot in the Democratic Presidential debate. A haul of 5,000 contributions would “secure” his place on the debate stage, he wrote.

Unlike many of the current frontrunners in the crowded field of 2020 Democratic candidates, the former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development has not released quarterly campaign fundraising figures.

“I have every intention of tearing his cruel policies to shreds on that debate stage — and I’m so close to reaching the donor threshold I need to secure my spot,” the email states.

In January, Castro was among the first to throw his hat into the ring, announcing his candidacy for the Democratic nomination in West San Antonio.

Castro’s only elected positions include municipal seats: City Council District 7 and mayor. So his politics going into his presidential run were in question. As mayor, he was viewed as slightly left of center, but during his tenure in the Obama White House, he was criticized by some on the left for a perceived coziness with Wall Street.

His policy positions have come into focus in recent weeks as more candidates have entered the race. At his campaign launch in January, Castro vowed to advocate for policies such as universal early education, Medicare for All, immigration and criminal justice reform, economic stimulus to address climate change and making housing more affordable. He has since voiced support for reparations for descendants of slaves.

“My favorite moment of the day [that I become President] will be when the incoming President ushers out the outgoing one,” Castro told the Hemisfair crowd. “I am going to be there with [my family] on the White House lawn, while a helicopter waits to take Trump to New York or Mar a Lago, and right before he leaves, right before he walks away to the helicopter, I’m going to tell him: “Adios.”

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez

JJ Velasquez was a columnist, former editor and reporter at the San Antonio Report.

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza reports on health and bioscience for the San Antonio Report.