Transcript: Julián Castro on "Face the Nation," July 28, 2019

Castro: Trump's attacks are part of his 2020 playbook

The following is a transcript of the interview with Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro that aired Sunday, July 28, 2019, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: We're now joined by former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro who joins us from Detroit where this week's primary debate will be held. Good morning to you.

SECRETARY JULIÁN CASTRO: Good morning. Good to be with you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Glad to have you here. The president's chief of staff, as you heard him, Mick Mulvaney, said it was just hyperbole when the president describes Baltimore as "rodent and rat infested" when he says "no human being would live there." Do you think it's important for Democrats to respond to this kind of language or is this a distraction as Republicans charge?

SEC. CASTRO: I absolutely think it's important for us to call it out for what it is, which is racism. You know I'm not somebody- like a lot of Americans I'm not somebody that likes to use that term or that is quick to call somebody a racist. I think you have to be very careful before you use that word. However, this president has shown us time and time again from the way that he started his campaign, to the comments about that Mexican-American judge during the campaign, to his failure to immediately condemn white supremacists in Charlottesville in 2018, to just a couple of weeks ago his comments about Representative Ocasio-Cortez and her three colleagues, to just these comments about Representative Cummings and his district as well as his comments about a year and a half ago- or maybe two years ago now about John Lewis in his district. There is a pattern here. This guy is the biggest identity politician that we have seen in the last 50 years and he engages in what's known as racial priming. Basically using this language and taking actions to try and get people to move into their camps by racial and ethnic identity. That's how he thinks he won in 2016 and that's how he thinks he's going to win in 2020. And, you know, I don't think it's going to be a coincidence that just a few weeks ago--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. 

SEC. CASTRO: --he kicked off his 2020 campaign and here we are with the same playbook that he used in 2016. But I believe--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

SEC. CASTRO:  --that there are enough people, whether they're white or black or Latino or Asian American, Native American, rich or poor who share the same values of basic respect--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. 

SEC. CASTRO: --and compassion and- and- you know, faith and love of country--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. 

SEC. CASTRO: --that are going to bring us together more strongly than he can tear us apart.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about immigration which you have made a part of your campaign focus. When you were mayor of San Antonio you testified before Congress and you called for increased border security measures and you praised the Obama administration's actions. I want to play it.

JULIÁN CASTRO TAPE: In Texas, we know firsthand that this administration has put more boots on the ground along the border than at any other time in our history which has led to unprecedented success in removing dangerous individuals with criminal records.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why did you pray- praise that policy then but when the Trump administration adopt similar language and policies you're hypercritical of them?

SEC. CASTRO: Oh, I think that's a very, very far stretch Margaret. If you listen to what I said in that clip, I talked about people who committed serious crimes, dangerous criminals. I haven't changed at all. If there are people who have committed serious felonies in the United States who are immigrants or who come to the border, I have always consistently said that- that those people should be apprehended, that they should be deported. So I haven't changed that at all. What I don't agree with and what's definitely different in this administration is that this administration has weaponized the law to cruelly separate little children from their parents. Look I've- I've been consistent. I- I don't have an issue with maintaining a secure border. We're always going to do that. What I have an issue with is separating little children from their parents. I have an issue with an administration that uses migrants as a scapegoat to create fear and paranoia in order to win elections and that does things like you just talked about on this show, which is to essentially pressure Guatemala to sign an agreement as a safe third country when it's not a safe third country and you're going to now ensure that more of those people who are desperate, who are fleeing desperate circumstances, end up dead. They end up in even more dire circumstances, when it's been the tradition of the United States to actually allow people to make their asylum claims here when they reach a port of entry. And so--

MARGARET BRENNAN: How are you- are you going to use this as a point of attack on the debate stage this week?

SEC. CASTRO:  Well, I think the best way to say that is if you had to take a bet of whether Don Lemon or Dana Bash or Jake Tapper going to ask a question about immigration, I would say that you probably should bet on that, right? That that issue is going to come up because it's an issue that Americans are thinking about, it's the issue that the president is- is trying to make the number one issue. And let me say this. Look --

MARGARET BRENNAN: We've just got to wrap it up.

SEC. CASTRO: In this campaign, I'm going to be bold and fearless on this issue and many others. So I'm perfectly willing to articulate my vision. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you. Julián Castro. We'll be back in a moment.