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Julian Castro talks affordable housing, immigration and education in Vegas

Jackie Valley
Jackie Valley
Election 2020

Julian Castro, the former secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama Administration, said Thursday that he plans to make housing affordability a centerpiece of his presidential campaign.

The comment came during Castro’s swing through Las Vegas, where he met with a small group of mostly Hispanic residents. Two attendees lamented the cost of rent and housing prices compared with their wages, opening a discussion that dovetailed with the presidential hopeful’s background.

Castro, 44, said he realized the United States had a “rental affordability crisis” during his time working for Obama. He intends to release a plan addressing the problem during the course of his campaign. As for what that may look like, Castro said he would support a package of investments to bolster the nation’s affordable housing supply and expand the low-income tax credit.

“I know that communities like Las Vegas and so many others in the state of Nevada are facing an affordability crisis,” he told reporters after the campaign event. “We want to make sure that Washington is stepping up and being a good partner to help create better affordability here in Las Vegas and otherwise.”

Castro said housing affordability goes hand in hand with wages, though. Like other Democratic presidential contenders, Castro said he supports a $15-per-hour minimum wage — more than double the $7.25 federal minimum wage. In Nevada, the minimum wage stands at $7.25 per hour for employees who are offered health benefits and $8.25 for all others.

But the former San Antonio mayor couched his support in reality, saying it won’t happen overnight. He did not offer a specific timeline.

“We need to phase it in in a reasonable amount of time,” he said.

Castro, likely to be the most prominent Latino presidential candidate in 2020, also addressed several questions about immigration in a room decorated with banners supporting a standalone Dream Act that wouldn’t include other elements such as border wall funding. He said the nation can have strong border security while also providing an “earned path to citizenship” for law-abiding undocumented immigrants.

Castro also said the federal government needs to end family detention, stop using private prisons — for immigrants or citizens — and reinstate the Temporary Protected Status program. President Trump announced in 2017 that his administration would either cancel or give a final extension of legal status to TPS beneficiaries who were allowed to live and work legally in the United States because of natural disasters or major conflicts in their native countries.

“I don’t see the value of a human being only as to whether they can earn money for themselves or for this country,” he said, noting reform must extend beyond a pathway for undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children.

During the roundtable discussion, Castro mentioned multiple times his desire to implement a universal pre-kindergarten program grounded in what he termed “playful learning.” As the mayor of San Antonio, where Castro grew up, he started a pre-kindergarten program for disadvantaged children.

But he also addressed an education element not often mentioned during campaign pit stops — school boards. While Castro acknowledged the federal government doesn’t have oversight of local school boards, he suggested that stronger leadership at that level, perhaps through additional training, could result in better education systems.

“They help the education of our children under their command,” he said. “Too often times they’re not being nearly as effective as they could be.”

Castro announced his presidency in mid-January, entering what could be a crowded Democratic field. Several presidential hopefuls have visited Las Vegas in the past two weeks. California Sen. Kamala Harris arrives Friday for a town hall at Canyon Springs High School in North Las Vegas.

A nonprofit called Make the Road Nevada, which operates in working-class and immigrant neighborhoods, sponsored the roundtable discussion with Castro.


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