Politics & Government

Texas Democrat pumps the brakes on the left’s new rallying cries

Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro, right, records The Takeout podcast with CBS Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett, left, at Rosa Mexicana restaurant, July 25, 2018.
Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro, right, records The Takeout podcast with CBS Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett, left, at Rosa Mexicana restaurant, July 25, 2018. Fort Worth Star-Telegram

WASHINGTON — Texas Democrat Joaquin Castro has plenty of ideas for the future of his party. So far, they don’t include embracing the left’s calls to impeach the president or abolish the agency in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Castro, 43, represents a San Antonio-area district where more than 60 percent of his constituents are Latino. He also serves on the serves on the congressional committee that oversees the U.S. intelligence community, and has spoken out aggressively about concerns with foreign interference in the 2016 presidential election.

In a Wednesday night recording of CBS News podcast “The Takeout,” Castro, considered a rising star in his party, bucked some of Democrats’ newly-embraced stances on immigration and President Donald Trump.

Both subjects have ignited intense passion among the party’s liberal wing in the wake of the 2016 presidential election, even bleeding into Texas’ high-profile Senate race.

“I know right now people think of ICE and they think of immigration and removal, but ICE also does things like enforcing human trafficking laws,” Castro told CBS Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett.

“What we need to do is take the enforcement and removal powers out of ICE… we’re not going to just do away with all those other functions,” Castro added.

Calls to abolish the agency completely have grown in national Democratic circles this summer as families and children poured across the U.S. border to escape violence in Central America.

Following a visit to Texas earlier this month, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, said the effort should be a top priority if Democrats take power on Capitol Hill after this fall’s elections. Gillibrand, once viewed aas one of her party’s moderates, is now considered a potential 2020 Democratic presidential contender.

“What we were supposed to do was pass an immigration bill that made sense of all of this, and was clear about who could come and who could not come, who could stay and who would have to go,” Castro said of the crisis on the Texas border.

Castro said his own solution would include beefed up support for people seeking asylum. He’s been an outspoken proponent of finding a legislative solution to keep people in the country who were brought in illegally as children.

“In [Congress’ failed 2013 immigration bill], the path to citizenship was 13 years… This idea about people jumping the line, just isn’t true,” said Castro.

Castro has his own ideas about what Democrat should challenge Trump in 2020. Among those he’s encouraging: Twin brother Julian Castro, who served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Barack Obama.

“He’s definitely thought about it,” Castro said of his brother’s deliberations.

(Listen to the latest episode of McClatchy’s Beyond the Bubble podcast: Millennials’ plan to rein in the right)

Rep. Castro is also talking up the chances of another Texas Democrat seeking higher office this fall: Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who is running against Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

“I believe there is going to be a storm that would hit the Republicans just like there was for Democrats in 2010 and 2014,” Castro said of his party’s chances in the 2018 midterms.

O’Rourke recently joined a smaller chorus of Democrats suggesting Trump’s authority should be challenged even sooner than 2020, telling the Dallas Morning News he’s seen enough evidence to support impeaching the president if the issue came up in Congress.

Castro, on the other hand, said he’s waiting for special counsel Robert Mueller to disclose results of an investigation before making that call.

He said the president’s press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which Trump suggested that Russia did not play a role in the 2016 election, invites other countries to attempt similar tactics in the future.

“This president doesn’t mind so much what Russia did, and we know they did a lot: Facebook ads, troll factories, they tapped into the voter registration of 20-something states,” said Castro.

“Do I think it affected votes? Absolutely,” added Castro. “The things that they did were beneficial to Donald Trump, and he isn’t challenging them, in part, because he’s happy with the result.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post attributed a quote from host Major Garrett to Rep. Castro.

Andrea Drusch is the Washington Correspondent for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She can be reached at adrusch@mcclatchydc.com; @andreadrusch