This is part of a series of reports on Latino first-term members of Congress.
First term Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, represents Texas’ 20th congressional district, made up of the western half of San Antonio and Bexar County. The district reflects the 64 percent Latino population in San Antonio. Castro and his twin brother, Julian, the mayor of San Antonio, are considered rising stars in the Democratic Party. Castro spoke with NBC Latino Wednesday to discuss top issues facing the Latino community.
The effect of the brinkmanship politics over raising the debt ceiling that have been going on in Congress had Castro clearly concerned about the fallout for Americans.
“Disabled veterans may not receive benefits on time. There would be higher mortgage costs for homeowners as interest rates go up. Social Security checks could be late for folks this month and into next month. The cost of student loans would increase. And overall for everyone, there would be a devastating effect on the stock market, which would affect 401ks, pensions and other investments,” Castro said.
The Senate hammered out a deal soon after Castro spoke to NBC Latino and House Speaker John Boehner said House Republicans would not try to block it averting some of the fallout Castro outlined.
Castro’s fellow Texan, Sen. Ted Cruz , a Republican, has played an instrumental role in the government shutdown by turning the routine of writing a budget to pay the government’s bills into a fight to defund the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. Cruz’s push to defund Obamacare helped set the foundation for the current government shutdown by opposing a continuing resolution that doesn’t defund the health care law.
The Houston Chronicle, Cruz’s hometown paper, published an editorial in Wednesday’s editions expressing regret for endorsing Cruz in the 2012 election, when Cruz won his Senate seat.
Castro shared his thoughts on what Texans are now thinking about the Republican junior senator, whose father is originally from Cuba.
“During the government shutdown and now with the possibility of defaulting on the debt, Texans have realized his role and how extreme his voice is in Congress. People understand that he was the cause of the government shutdown. The impact on Texans has been devastating,” said Castro, who is of Mexican descent.
Texas has the highest rate of people without health insurance in the nation, and Latinos are the most uninsured ethnic group. Earlier this year, Texas rejected the Medicaid expansion made possible under the Affordable Care Act. It would have provided government-funded health care to more of the state’s low-income people, but the state would eventually have to pick up additional costs.
When asked what action he might take in response to the state decision not to expand Medicaid, Castro said that he and his allies would continue to pressure Texas Gov. Rick Perry and the state’s legislature to do so.
“Texas has the highest percentage of people without insurance at 25 percent, and 38 percent of Latinos in Texas don’t have health coverage. The governor and the Republican (controlled) Legislature have been completely tone deaf to that. I have worked with local agencies to make sure that the Affordable Care Act rollout is as successful as possible. We have been working with local agencies and local groups to sign up as many people as possible. We will continue to press Governor Perry and the Legislature to expand Medicaid,” Castro said.
Finally, with deportations approaching the two million mark, NBC Latino asked the first-term congressman about his thoughts on the upcoming milestone for immigration enforcement. Castro said that it highlights the need for comprehensive immigration reform.
“It speaks to the need to reform the immigration system immediately. As soon as we can reach an agreement on not defaulting and reopening the government, the President has committed to going full force on immigration reform. Speaker Boehner and the GOP have refused to put a bill on the floor,” Castro said.
Adriana Maestas is a senior contributing editor at Politic365 and one of the co-founders of the DailyGrito.com. She resides in California.