Fresh off his debate tangle with former Vice President Joe Biden over the Obama administration’s deportation policies, Democratic presidential hopeful Julián Castro clarified that he was not specifically challenging President Barack Obama.
“This is not about criticizing President Obama,” Castro said during the AFSCME’s forum on public service co-moderated by HuffPost in Las Vegas on Saturday. “This is about, ‘OK, what does the next administration have to do in the face of a President Trump that is absolutely terrible.’”
Asked by moderator Jon Ralston what the candidate meant when he suggested Biden hadn’t learned from “the lessons of the past,” Castro suggested that the Obama administration made improvements on immigration reform but didn’t go far enough.
“There’s no comparison between Obama and Trump,” said Castro, who served as the Housing and Urban Development secretary in the final years of the Obama administration.
Castro has proposed to decriminalize illegal border crossings, making it a civil violation and preventing future administrations from separating families at the border.
“President Obama was trying and that administration made adjustments and improved on immigration,” the Democrat said. “However, Trump has weaponized a certain section of the law to inflict cruelty on migrant children and their parents, so there are lessons we can learn from this.”
After his time was up, Castro told reporters backstage that he feels the news media was playing into the Biden campaign’s hands by framing his criticism of the vice president as an attack on the Obama administration.
The Democratic primary debate on Wednesday heated up when several candidates, including Castro, piled on Biden over the record number of deportations made under the Obama administration.
Biden suggested that Castro’s plan to decriminalize border crossings was unnecessary, to which Castro replied: “It looks like one of us has learned from the lessons of the past and one of us hasn’t.”