ANAHEIM, Calif. (CN) – Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro told a crowd of Latino California lawmakers Friday that, if elected in 2020, he would champion equity and political unity and restore integrity to the White House.
Castro, the former Housing & Urban Development secretary under President Barack Obama, announced his candidacy on Jan. 12, joining a growing list of Democratic hopefuls in the race, including California Sen. Kamala Harris, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
In his speech Friday at the California Latino Legislative Caucus’ conference in Anaheim, Castro chided President Donald Trump for pushing policies on immigration, climate change and healthcare that have driven a wedge between communities across the country.
“I’m running because I believe our country needs to move forward together with one destiny,” said Castro, who is also a former mayor of San Antonio. “[Washington D.C] doesn’t seem to care about vulnerable communities, doesn’t see the value of immigrants and sees one base as having more value than anyone else.”
The first-time presidential candidate – who jumped onto the national political scene in 2012 with a rousing keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in Denver – is the first Latino to enter the 2020 presidential race.
Castro, speaking steps away from the Disneyland Resort, told lawmakers the Golden State represents the diverse and progressive political future of the nation.
“This state represents future, growing diverse, often harbinger of what is to come, way of life and looking at the world,” Castro said, adding that Latino lawmakers represent the “legacy of progress, and the hopes and dreams of people that picked crops, stood in picket lines and mopped floors.”
Castro said his time as president would center on expanding “Medicare-for-all,” raising the national minimum wage to $15 an hour, reforming the immigration system and recommitting the nation to the 2015 Paris Climate Accords.
“We don’t have to choose between protecting our planet and creating jobs,” Castro said.
While he stopped short of saying he would extend citizenship to all immigrants, Castro criticized Trump’s policy of separating families at the U.S.-Mexico border and said the country should “break ICE apart,” referring to U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Latino lawmakers in the audience included Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, D-Los Angeles and Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Orange County.
Gonzalez, who chairs the caucus, said in her introductory remarks that she was glad to see a Latino enter the crowded field of presidential candidates.
“Growing up, I never saw anyone who looks like us running for president,” Gonzalez said. “It’s amazing to actually have someone throw their hat in ring who we can relate to.”
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Fullerton Mayor Jesus Silva were also in attendance.
Castro heaped praise on California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who he called “a champion for the vulnerable.”
Becerra – whose office has sued the Trump administration more than 45 times – said in the Democrat’s Spanish-language rebuttal to the president’s State of the Union that his office would take legal action over the president’s declaration of a national emergency over border wall funding.
Castro, who has plans to visit all 50 states during his campaign, has already made stops in Iowa, Idaho and Nevada. The California leg of his tour will continue Monday with a meet and greet at City Club LA, according to his campaign website.
He made waves this week when he said his twin brother, Rep. Joaquin Castro, a four-term Democratic congressman from San Antonio, is mulling a Senate run against Texas Republican John Cornyn.
Joaquin Castro, who heads the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, is also heading up his brother’s campaign committee.
Castro said in closing remarks Friday that if he wins in 2020, he would cherish the responsibility of ushering Trump off the White House grounds.
“I’m gonna be thinking about all the folks who worked hard over the years as farmworkers and as maids,” Castro said. “And right before [Trump] leaves, I’m gonna tell him ‘Adios.’”