Joaquin Castro was born on September 16, 1974, in San Antonio, Texas. He double-majored in communications and political science at Stanford University and gradated with honors in 1996. After earning a Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School in 2000, Castro returned to San Antonio and joined a private law practice in 2002. That same year, he was elected to the first of his five two-year terms in the Texas state legislature. In 2012 Castro was elected to represent Texas’s 20th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he continues to serve as a Democrat member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC). In 2016, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus elected Castro as its first vice chairman.
Castro counts his mother – Maria “Rosie” Castro, a prominent community activist most closely associated with La Raza Unida (LRU) – as one of his earliest political influences. Mr. Castro’s twin brother, Julian, was the mayor of San Antonio from 2009-14 before joining the Obama administration as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. The Castro brothers were named “modelos” at the 1989 Chicano Activist Reunion which was held in San Antonio and organized by former LRU radicals. Among those in attendance at that event were Rodolfo Acuna and and Jose Angel Gutierrez.
Castro strongly supported President Obama’s “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA) program, which was enacted by a 2012 executive action protecting hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens who had first come to the U.S. as minors, from deportation. Castro has described DACA as a measure that is “consistent with our nation’s core values and heritage as a country of immigrants,” and as “a positive step in improving America’s immigration policy.”
In January 2013, Castro stated that “we need to overhaul our current immigration system by working on a comprehensive solution that includes an earned path-to-citizenship and a continuation of our border enforcement.”
In the summer of 2014, when tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador were illegally flooding across the Mexican border and into Texas and other southern U.S. states, Castro said: “I think the children who came here unaccompanied … should be given due process and should be considered for asylum.”
In September 2015, Castro sent a letter to Edward Royce, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, urging further U.S. assistance to refugees from the war-torn, terrorism-infested nation of Syria. Lamenting that “the number of Syrian refugees accepted into the United States for resettlement is extremely low,” the letter argued that “Congress has a duty to discuss earnestly our nation’s responsibility to share in the burden of sheltering innocent Syrians fleeing incredible violence and despair.” That same month, Castro tweeted: “The United States should accept more Syrian refugees.”
In 2016, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus elected Castro as its first vice chairman.
A few weeks after the November 2016 election of Donald Trump as U.S. President, Castro vowed to do everything within his power to “contend” with Trump’s “appalling hostility toward the Hispanic community.”
Castro condemned President Trump’s January 2017 executive order that imposed a temporary moratorium on the issuance of visas for people seeking to travel to the United States from seven majority-Muslim nations that were hotbeds of Islamic terrorism. The president’s order, said Castro, “betrays American values,” “undermin[es] national security and economic prosperity,” and “targets people based on their religion.” Castro also introduced a resolution authorizing Congress to: (a) “appoint an independent counsel to investigate whether President Trump or his staff [had] directed, or knowingly permitted, United States Customs and Border Protection actions that violated judicial orders designed to stay the … travel ban executive order”; (b) censure the president if he had indeed “unconstitutionally and purposely disregarded judicial orders”; and (c) “take steps to remove him from office” if he were to act “unconstitutionally” yet again.
In 2017 as well, Castro opposed Senate Bill 4, which called for permitting local law-enforcement officers to question the immigration status of people whom they detained or arrested, and for punishing local government department heads and elected officials for failure to cooperate with federal immigration agents in cases involving deportable immigrants. When SB 4 was passed into law in May 2017, Castro called it “a dark moment for Texas and for our nation.” “Legalizing the profiling of people based on their ethnicity and birthplace,” he explained, was “morally wrong.”
In October 2017, Castro characterized President Trump’s immigration policies as a “warped, anti-immigrant … wish list” that “lack[ed] basic humanity.” Regarding Trump’s call for the construction of a wall to prevent people from illegally moving northward across the U.S.-Mexico border, Castro said: “Building a wall across America would be ineffective, a waste of taxpayers’ money, and a political stunt.”
In December 2017, Castro called for passage of the DREAM Act, legislation designed to create a pathway-to-citizenship for illegal aliens who first came to the United States as minors. Asserting that it was unacceptable to require these “brave” and “upstanding young people” to “wait any longer” before they could come “out of the shadows,” Castro said that Congress should make it a “priority” to “pass a permanent legislative solution” to “protect the nearly 800,000 DREAMers” who were already “contributing to our economy.”
In an October 19, 2018 interview with CNN reporter Poppy Harlow, Castro, without evidence, accused senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, of having orchestrated the Saudi government’s recent brutal killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who had been critical of the policies of Saudi Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS). Said Castro: “Let me get to the point that I think is most disturbing right now. The reporting that Jared Kushner may have with U.S. intelligence delivered a hit list, an enemy’s list to the Crown Prince, to MbS in Saudi Arabia, and that the Prince then may have acted on that and one of the people he took action against is Mr. Khashoggi.” Harlow, in turn, said: “Just to be clear, congressman, we don’t have — I just want to be clear for our viewers, we do not have that reporting. I’m not sure where you’re getting that from.” To this, Castro replied: “There has been reporting to that effect, sure.” Castro subsequently disavowed his unsubstantiated charge, which White House press secretary Sarah Sanders called an “outrageous slanderous lie without a shred of proof.”
In August 2020, Castro, who was chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, opened a probe into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s decision to address the Republican National Convention. In an August 25 letter to Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, the congressman wrote: “It is highly unusual, and likely unprecedented, for a sitting Secretary of State to speak at a partisan convention for either of the political parties. It appears that it may also be illegal.” Citing the Hatch Act and State Department guidance, Castro added: “In furtherance of the constitutionally mandated obligation to conduct oversight of the State Department, as well as to determine whether any legislative action is necessary, to address this matter, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations intends to examine this issue carefully.”
But as Jim Geraghty pointed out in National Review Online:
“[T]he Hatch Act doesn’t bar cabinet officials from speaking at political events. The rules state that a cabinet official ‘may not use the official title Secretary when engaging in political activity, such as speaking at a political campaign event…. In 2012, six cabinet secretaries addressed the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte: Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, and Karen Mills, administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration … which … was elevated to Cabinet-level in the Obama years.”
On January 25, 2021, Castro introduced legislation that would bar staffers at all federal agencies “from using the derogatory term ‘alien’ to refer to an individual who is not a citizen or national of the United States.” The bill was co-sponsored by 11 other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus — Raul Grijalva, Nanette Diaz Barragan, Darren Soto, Sylvia Garcia, Jesus Garcia, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Juan Vargas, Pete Aguilar, Lori Trahan, Veronica Escobar, and Ruben Gallego. President Joe Biden supported the measure, and in late January the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency issued memos stating that its employees should no longer use the word “alien.”
For an overview of Castro’s voting record on a variety of key issues, click here.
Further Reading: “Joaquin Castro” (Keywiki.org); “Castro Statement on Fifth Anniversary of DACA” (6-15-2017); “Castro Statement on Immigration Reform” (1-29-2013); “Joaquin Castro: Asylum for Illegals from Central America” (7-3-2014); “Castro Calls for Congressional Hearing on Syrian Refugee Crisis” (9-9-2015); “Castro Introduces Resolution Calling for DOJ Investigation into Trump Compliance with Constitution” (2-7-2017); “Castro Statement on the Trump White House’s Anti-Immigrant Policy Priorities” (8-8-2017).