- Associated Press - Friday, June 22, 2018

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - Former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro is seizing on the outcry over family separation at the border as he explores a 2020 presidential run, telling delegates at a Texas Democratic Party convention in Fort Worth Friday that the issue underscores “in poignant terms what the stakes are.”

Castro presented a montage of TV-news reports on President Trump’s “zero tolerance” border policy as delegates in the arena shouted: “free the children!”

Castro has been among a throng of Democrats to denounce the policy that resulted in more than 2,300 children separated from their families. As Beto O’Rourke, the Texas Democrat running to unseat Senator Ted Cruz, took part in a Father’s Day rally at a refugee tent city in Tornillo near El Paso last Sunday, Castro, armed with toys and cards, was denied entry to a children’s detention facility in McAllen in the Rio Grande Valley.

He told The Associated Press earlier this week that the family separation policy had “crossed a line.”

Castro said the executive order Trump signed two days ago to end the practice is a valid remedy only if children are immediately and humanely reunited with their parents.

“The president may be signing an executive order backing down, which he never does, because he’s offended our sense of morality,” Castro said. “He’s crossed a line, whether he realizes he’s crossed it or not.”

Since stepping down as HUD Secretary, Castro has launched a political action committee to help Democrats take control of the U.S. House and gain seats in state legislatures.

He visited New Hampshire and was scheduled to travel to Iowa this weekend, but canceled his plans so that he could attend another protest rally in Tornillo scheduled for Sunday.

His twin brother, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio, is also expected to appear in Tornillo. Joaquin ducked a chance to run for governor this year, fueling speculation that he avoided challenging popular incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott so that the family wouldn’t have a loss on its political resume and keeping the record clear for Julian’s 2020 White House run.

Battleground Texas, a group created in 2013 with plans to engage Texas’ rapidly growing Latino population, has dispatched volunteers to register voters at the protest rallies.

“It serves Julian very well, as someone planning and aspiring to higher positions, to be at the front of this,” said Oscar Silva, the group’s executive director.

The former San Antonio mayor was 26 years old when he was elected to San Antonio’s city council. Castro has been considered a rising star in the Democratic Party since delivering the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 2012, and was a contender for a spot on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 ticket.

Dalinda Guillen, a convention delegate from Starr County on the Mexico border, said she would welcome a fellow Latino at the helm of the Democratic Party.

“It would say a lot about this country at this moment to have a Latino in such a role,” she said.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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