After the Texas Democratic Convention headlines were buzzing about former San Antonio Mayor and current HUD Secretary Julian Castro being on the short list as a potential running mate to presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Secretary Castro is the only minority on the list and the best pick for Indian Country. Secretary Castro has been mentioned along side U.S. Senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Senator from Virginia Tim Kaine.
I have heard many people remark on Secretary Castro’s inexperience for the position. I admit that he is not as well seasoned politically as other picks, but he has a different kind of experience than any other player on the VP list or any other presidential candidate: growing up in America as a minority. If Secretary Castro is chosen as Secretary Clinton’s running mate, he brings with him a whole voice to the White House, the voice of the average American life that blossomed into greatness. He is an inspiration to marginalized communities across the country and is a welcome contrast to Trump’s blatant racism.
Secretary Castro was raised by Chicana activist power house Rosie Castro who took Secretary Castro and his twin brother, U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro, with her to rallies and political meetings from a young age. The Castro twins were exposed to organizing marginalized communities. Secretary Castro attended Thomas Jefferson High School, graduated from Stanford with a Bachelor’s in Political Science and Communications and graduated with a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. At age 26, Secretary Castro was the youngest person elected to San Antonio City Council and in 2009 was elected Mayor of San Antonio.
HUD’s FY 2016 budget had many provision to better Indian Country with a 15 million increase in funding for Indian programs. The programs included $660 million through HUD’s Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG) Program, to help tribal grantees invest in new homes, infrastructure, and economic development. $80 million under the Indian Community Development Block Grant (ICDBG) Program. Indian CDBG funds are used by federally recognized Indian tribes, Alaska Native villages, and tribal organizations producing affordable housing, public facilities and jobs. HUD also provided $8 million for the Indian Housing Loan Guarantee program (Section 184) Program, a $1 million increase over 2015, to tribal communities to access private capital as a means of stimulating their affordable housing and homeownership programs.
“When Native American communities succeed, our nation succeeds,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro in a February 2015 press release from HUD. “The President’s FY 2016 Budget proposal is a blueprint for greater opportunity for all Americans. By increasing funding for Native American communities, the President’s Budget would give more families a fair chance to get ahead. HUD is deeply committed to working with our partners to shape a future where every person has the opportunity to pursue the American Dream.”
But Native American’s aren’t the only marginalized communities that Secretary Castro has championed. I have seen leadership in my former Mayor many times over the years. The first was his model for a quality, all day pre-school initiative in San Antonio, Pre-K for SA. It was a risk for him to run for re-election and raise local sales tax revenues. Secretary Castro came under heavy fire from the Tea Party but voters chose to support another term for Castro and his Pre-K for SA initiative even with a sales tax increase.
San Antonio also passed a fully inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance in 2013 for its LGBTQIA community under his leadership.. I cannot stress the term fully inclusive enough, because the hateful bathroom rhetoric that faces our country today was the same battle we faced trying to get a fully inclusive ordinance passed. One in five transgender Americans have experienced being homeless. At the 2015 National Alliance to End Homelessness Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness, Secretary Castro stated, “It’s an injustice that any transgender person is mistreated when seeking help.” In 2015 HUD published Notice CPD-15-02: Appropriate Placement for Transgender Persons in Single-Sex Emergency Shelters and Other Facilities, which provides guidance to Emergency Solutions Grants, Continuum of Care, and Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) for providing havens to transgender Americans on appropriate and inappropriate inquiries related to a client’s sex. Just a few months later, in November 20, 2015, HUD published FR-5863-P-01: Equal Access in Accordance With an Individual’s Gender Identity in Community Planning and Development Programs, which would codify into law the non-discrimination practices that HUD first introduced in February 2015.
I have seen time and time again Secretary Castro listen to the most marginalized communities in our country and respond with thoughtful action. It’s why I believe that he would bring a welcome contrast to Clinton’s presumptive Presidency. Indian Country has asked many times why our voices are missing in Clinton’s campaign and it’s my belief that with Secretary Castro by her side we know that Indian Country will have an ally in the White House.
Jennifer K. Falcon is an enrolled member of the Fort Peck Assiniboine Sioux tribe. She grew up an urban Indian in Denver, and is now a progressive political organizer in San Antonio Texas. Follow her on Twitter: @yourmomentofjen.