While campaigning across Pennsylvania last week, US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro talked over the phone with me about the issues surrounding this year’s race for the White House. With the election just days away, Secretary Castro offered his take on the candidates, discussing how each plans to address the issues most important to the Latino community. He openly expressed his support for Hillary Clinton, and he explained why now – more than ever – Latinos must visit the polls and exercise their right to vote on November 8th.
Fernandez: So what brings you back to Pennsylvania?
Castro: I’m glad to be here in support of Hillary Clinton. Pennsylvania is such an important swing state in this election, and there is a growing Latino presence in communities around the state in places like Philadelphia and Reading.
Fernandez: Very true. Berks County is one of the largest populated counties for Latinos next to Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley. As a Latino, what aspects of Hillary’s plan and her message do you identify with and why have you chosen to support her?
Castro: Hillary Clinton has a plan for opportunity for everybody. She wants all Americans to succeed, unlike Donald Trump who has been very divisive and wants to pick and choose who gets opportunities. I feel very blessed that I was able to get a good college education, go to law school, and become a professional. And I want other folks in the Latino community and throughout the United States to be able to reach their dreams. Hillary Clinton is the only one that has put forth a plan to improve education, to create more job opportunities, and to create more health care opportunity so that all people can actually reach their dreams.
Fernandez: Specifically, what do you believe are the most important campaign issues that Latinos should be paying attention to as they cast their vote for the next President of the United States?
Castro: Number one is immigration. Hillary Clinton has said she will implement a comprehensive immigration reform proposal within the first 100 days of her administration that will include a pathway to citizenship. That couldn’t be more different from Trump’s plan to build a wall. Second, Hillary Clinton has said that we need to retain the Affordable Care Act and improve it. The Affordable Care Act has helped ensure that more than four million Latinos now have health insurance that didn’t have it before. She acknowledges that there could be improvements made, but she wants those folks who have been able to afford health insurance to continue their coverage. Donald Trump says he wants to do away with the Affordable Care Act, but he doesn’t have any plan in place to actually provide health insurance to the four million Latinos who would lose it. Finally, the third important issue is education. And this may be the most important issue for Latinos. Recent studies were released showing that the Latino high school graduation rate is at the highest that it’s ever been, and Hillary Clinton has a plan to make college more affordable so that more young people can go to college and still be able to buy a home and reach their dreams. Donald Trump has a tax plan that just wants to give more money to people who are already wealthy, and that is not going to help the Latino community or any hard working families throughout the United States be able to send their kids to college.
Fernandez: In previous elections, Latinos are usually mentioned as the swing minority voters. Many would agree that this election has caught the attention and interest of more Americans, including Latinos, than ever before. So when compared to other elections, how can Latinos impact the results of this election?
Castro: Well, it’s clear that the Latino community is impacting the presidential election more and more. And there’s no question that this year, the Latino community is going to impact the results in a number of swing states and not just the ones that we typically think about, like Florida or Colorado. Places like right here in Pennsylvania are important. If it does get close, then Latinos could be the margin needed for victory.
Fernandez: With the election just weeks away, could you one reason why, now more than ever, Latino’s must exercise their right to vote?
Castro: I’d say it’s important because there’s a stark difference between being able to reach for your dreams and having family members and neighbors support it. There’s a stark difference in the candidates—between one who sees Latinos as fully American and the other who sees the Latino community “the other” that doesn’t belong. So, it couldn’t be more clear.
My fellow Latino men and women, we have found ourselves at the center of one of the most intense presidential elections in the modern history of the United States of America. And like every American citizen, we have the civic responsibility to play an active role in our government—a government that will make decisions affecting our finances, our access to affordable healthcare, and the future of our children. Now, more than ever, your vote is critical. For this reason, I urge you get out and vote on November 8th. And as a community, we can be a powerful voice that will make a difference our own tomorrow.