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Castro-Patrick Immigration Debate Offers Plenty of Attacks, Few Solutions

Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune
Mayor Julian Castro and Sen. Dan Patrick shake cordially after their San Antonio debate on April 15, 2014.

Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has been making headlines for taking what some consider a hard line on immigration in his campaign. Last night, he squared off against San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro over the topic.

The genesis of the debate was a squabble on Twitter between the two –started in large part because of State Sen. Dan Patrick's comments calling undocumented immigrants entry into Texas an "invasion." In the debate, Mayor Castro quickly revisited that topic.

“I want to break news to the Senator, that we’re about to celebrate San Jacinto Day, but Texas is not being invaded by Mexico. I can assure you of that," Castro joked.

Castro made it clear from the beginning he believes Sen. Patrick’s views on immigration are out of touch with the Republican party and Texas history. He pointed to past examples of Texas officials taking a stand against laws in other states aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration.

“In 1994 when [California Governor] Pete Wilson proposed Proposition 187, George W. Bush as governor said 'You know what, that’s not the right path for Texas.' In 2010 when Jan Brewer proposed SB 1070 along with the Arizona legislature, Rick Perry said 'That is not right for Texas,'" Castro said.

Castro also made a point of reminding the audience that Patrick wants to repeal HB 1403, the so-called Texas DREAM act granting in-state tuition to undocumented students who attend a state college or university.

Patrick said he doesn’t want state funds to pay for an undocumented student when that money could go to a U.S. citizen. But Patrick also sounded like he was opposed to undocumented students being admitted into state colleges and universities.

Presenting a hypothetical scenario where college administrators faced a choice between a documented and undocumented student, "If I have to chose between the two, it’s a bad choice, but I will stand up for the citizen of Texas," Patrick said.

Patrick, who in a runoff against current Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in late May, spent the second half of the debate trying to convince Hispanic voters why the Republican party is right for them. He focused on jobs, work ethics and –over protests from Castro and moderator Evan Smith – abortion.

“I want to go back to this pro-life message for a second. I want to speak to the audience directly," Patrick said.
"Is there a pro-life component to border security?" Smith quipped.

While Patrick was reaching out to any Democratic Hispanics watching, Castro was questioning whether Patrick was pushing away Hispanic Republicans with his views on immigration. A handful of Hispanic Republican leaders have come out in support of Democratic Lt. Gov. nominee Leticia van de Putte. Patrick’s reply? "You never get 100 percent of the people supporting you."

Ben Philpott is the Managing Editor for KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @BenPhilpottKUT.
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