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CNN Live Event/Special

Town Hall Meetign with Democratic Presidential Candidate Julian Castro. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired April 11, 2019 - 22:00   ET



LEMON: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to a CNN Democratic presidential town hall with former Housing Secretary Julian Castro of Texas.

We've got a rowdy crowd here tonight and a lot of great questions to ask. I'm Don Lemon.

Julian Castro made his name in politics as the mayor of San Antonio and later the secretary of housing and urban development in the Obama administration. He is challenging President Trump directly on the issue of immigration, calling the president's policies cruel and an absolute failure. If elected, Castro would make history as the first Latino president.

Now, in our audience tonight, we have Democrats and independents who say that they plan to participate in the Democratic primaries and caucuses. So without further ado, everyone, can you please give a very warm welcome to Secretary Julian Castro.


CASTRO: Thank you.

LEMON: How are you?

CASTRO: I'm doing well.

LEMON: It's so good to see you.

CASTRO: Good to see you.

LEMON: You're looking good.

CASTRO: I can hear the crowd from back there.

LEMON: Can you?

CASTRO: I heard you were getting them riled up.

LEMON: Listen, have a seat. Have a seat. So as you know, there's always news lately. I want to ask you this, before we get to the audience questions. CNN has confirmed a report in the Washington Post that the Trump administration pressured the Department of Homeland Security to release immigrants detained at the border into so-called sanctuary cities in part to retaliate against Democrats who opposed Trump's plans for a border wall. Give me your reaction to that, Secretary.

CASTRO: That the cruelty of this administration never seems to end. You know, a year ago, this administration told us that as Americans if we would just be cruel enough to separate little children from their parents that that would deter more families from coming to our southern border and, in fact, the opposite has happened.

And so it's amazing what lengths they're going to. Now they're talking about, you know, bussing families to particular cities to target political opponents. You know, these folks want us to choose cruelty as a weapon against these people and against political opponents.

And last week, I released an immigration plan. I'm calling on Americans to choose compassion, not cruelty.

LEMON: We're going to talk more about your immigration plan as we move along here. So let's get to our audience, shall we? The first question comes from Veronica Pacheco from New Jersey. She is a freshman at American University, studying international studies and journalism. Hi, Veronica, go on.

QUESTION: Hello, good evening. As the former mayor of San Antonio, Texas, you have been very outspoken against Trump's rhetoric regarding the caravan and the overall issue of immigration in this country. As a Mexican-American, what do you say to members of the Hispanic community across the country who are divided on whether or not to support the deportation of undocumented immigrants?

CASTRO: Thank you very much for the question. You know, I grew up with a grandmother who came from Mexico when she was 7 years old with her little sister because their parents had died. And they came across the border at Eagle Pass, Texas, ended up in the west side of San Antonio.

She worked her whole life as a maid, a cook, and a babysitter, because she never finished elementary school. And just two generations later, one of her grandsons -- you know, my twin brother, Joaquin, who is here -- is a member of the United States Congress, and the other grandson is running for president of the United States.

This country has been blessed by immigrants throughout the years. And, you know, this president wants us to believe that we have to choose between border security and compassion.

I believe that our border is more secure than it's ever been. We have 654 miles of fencing. We have thousands of personnel. We have boats. We have planes. We have helicopters. We have security cameras that are monitoring what happens. We don't have to choose between a secure border. We have a secure border, and we can maintain that security. We can be compassionate, as well.

And so what I would say is that let's live up to the best of ourselves by recognizing that these are human beings who deserve respect, and that we can have a secure border, but also treat fundamentally -- treat people fundamentally as human beings.

And, you know, to me, it's amazing, Don, because I also am from San Antonio, a city that throughout the generations has been made stronger because of its immigrant community.

LEMON: Can we talk about that for a little bit?


LEMON: Because you mentioned your immigration policy. You just unveiled a major immigration plan this month calling for illegal border crossings to be decriminalized.


But just last month, 92,000 -- 92,000 -- undocumented migrants were arrested at the southern border, the highest number in more than a decade. Won't decriminalizing border crossings only result in more people trying to cross the border?

CASTRO: Not at all. In fact, as I mentioned a few minutes ago, what we were told last year was that if we would separate children from their families, that that would deter more families from coming. What we need to do is, you know, number one, we need to stop playing games with people who are seeking asylum. We need to make sure that people who are presenting themselves for asylum can make that claim.

Secondly, I don't think that we should treat them as criminals. You know, up until about 2004, we actually treated somebody crossing the border as a civil violation, not a criminal one. In fact, it is the fact that we've treated it as a criminal violation that has led to this incarceration, this family detention, the backlog that exists today.

I believe that we should treat it as a civil violation. People still are part of an immigration process. They still have to come to their court hearings. We still will monitor them. We still have the option to deport them. The fact is that most people who are seeking asylum, you know, may not get it, but some will, and we should hear their claims.

The other thing is, we need to be smarter about this. In the long term, we need a 21st century Marshall Plan for Central and Latin America, because the problem is that folks can't find safety and opportunity in Honduras or El Salvador or Guatemala. If we can partner with those countries so that people can find safety and opportunity there, instead of having to come and knock on the door of the United States, you know, that's what they want.

That is going to be better for those countries. In the long run, that also addresses the issue that you're talking about, which is 92,000 people coming to the southern border in one month.

LEMON: Yeah, give them an opportunity there to encourage them to stay. Listen, I want to bring in Bruno Yupanqui. He is a high school English teacher in Virginia. He's also a DACA recipient. Bruno, go on.

QUESTION: Mr. Castro, the People First immigration policy you lay out is a worthwhile plan to help families like mine. Having gone through many of the heartbreaks of past policies across the aisle, what do you say to DACA holders and Dreamers like myself, families like mine, and students like the ones that I teach to reassure them that you can make this possible, if given the nomination and you become the first Latino president?

CASTRO: Yeah, Bruno, thank you very much for that question. And congratulations on all of your success. You and so many other Dreamers represent the best of this nation, people that are studying hard, that are working hard, they're in the military.

I would say that I have a completely different vision from this president when it comes to not only Dreamers, but undocumented immigrants in this country. Number one, I don't believe the narrative that people who are coming to our southern border, these families, women and children, that they represent a threat to our country. And I believe that we should choose compassion even as we maintain a secure border.

When it comes to our Dreamers and it comes to other undocumented immigrants, I believe in a pathway to citizenship. And under my People First immigration plan, we would put folks on a pathway to citizenship. That includes not only Dreamers, but people with temporary protected status, whom this president has put a target on their back.

I believe that on January 20, 2021, at 12:01 p.m., we're going to have a Democratic president, a Democratic House, and a Democratic Senate.


And the lesson, when it comes to immigration reform, the lesson from 2009, 2010, when it comes to immigration reform, is we can't wait. And so this time, we won't wait. We will push forward on immigration reform. A few years ago, legislation got 68 votes in the Senate. It would have passed in the House if it had been allowed to be voted on. But the Republican speaker didn't allow a vote on it. We will push it forward this time, and I believe that we can get it done.


LEMON: You see standing in front of you -- you see standing in front of you is Chrissy Holt. Chrissy is her name, and she works in business development from Annapolis, Maryland. She's an advocate for the National Hemophiliac Foundation. Chrissy?

QUESTION: Thank you. Secretary Castro, thank you for this opportunity. My son has severe Hemophilia A, and his medical bills from the federal employee Blue Cross Blue Shield plan run between $35,000 to $45,000 a month, and they have for over two decades. He's almost 26 years old, and his Washington, D.C., employer offers a

bronze insurance plan which does not cover his medication. What should he do? Change jobs? Move? Die, because the insurance companies won't cover his medication? How and what will you do to help the chronically ill thrive in America with Medicare for all?


CASTRO: Yeah. Chrissy, thank you for that question. And, you know, I know what it's like to grow up with a relative that I'm very close to who has a chronic condition. The grandmother that I mentioned that I grew up with had diabetes. She had Type 2 diabetes.

And so when my brother and I were growing up, I remember that in the afternoon she used to go into the other room and she would inject herself with insulin, and then her condition kept getting worse and worse. And I remember the anxiety growing up as a young man about my grandmother's condition and worrying about whether she would be able to get the health care that she needed.

Thankfully, she had Medicare, so she was able to get the care that she needed. I want to make sure that we strengthen Medicare for the people who are on it and that we provide Medicare to everybody who wants it in this country, so that everybody can have the opportunity to get Medicare.


LEMON: So you're on board, Medicare for all?


LEMON: Even though it would eliminate private health insurance.

CASTRO: Let me be very clear. I also believe if somebody wants to have their own private health insurance plan, that they ought to have that. What I don't believe is that anybody should go without health care or that the profit motive should ever keep somebody from getting the care, not the insurance, but the actual care, medical care, and the medication that they need.

LEMON: OK. Christopher Young is here, and he is a Marine Corps veteran who works as a consultant on government contracts here in Washington. He's a member of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. So thank you for your service. We appreciate that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

LEMON: Christopher, what's your question?

QUESTION: The standing qualifications to be the president of the United States are set out in the Constitution, at Article 2, Section 1, Clause 5, and state three specific requirements. One must be at least 35 years old, a resident within the United States for 14 years, and a natural born citizen. Do you think releasing your tax returns to the American public should be added in order to qualify for the president? And why?


CASTRO: You're asking, Christopher, do I think that that should be added under the Constitution?


CASTRO: Or by law, by statute? Well, I don't necessarily think that we need to do a constitutional amendment for it, but I support making it a requirement by statute, Congress passing a law that requires people who are running for president to submit 10 years of their tax returns.

It is astonishing that this president still has not released his taxes, even though he said at one point that he would and then he said he was under audit. Now it's gone so far that Congress is looking for those tax returns, and I hope they get them, because it's clear that he has something to hide.

I don't. And so during the next few weeks, I look forward to releasing 10 years of my tax returns, and I'm sure...


I'm sure that -- I have no doubt, I know some of the other candidates in the Democratic primary have released theirs. I'm sure that just about everybody probably on this side of the aisle is going to release theirs. And I don't see why you wouldn't. If you have nothing to hide, then there should be no problem releasing those tax returns.

LEMON: All right, Secretary, thank you very much. That was the first round. We're going to be right back with more of CNN's Democratic presidential town hall with Secretary Julian Castro. Make sure you stay right there.



[22: 15:30:]

LEMON: And welcome back, everyone, to CNN's Democratic presidential town hall with Secretary Julian Castro. So I've got to ask you. You know, we've been talking for the last 15 minutes, but I think that people should know that there's someone in the audience who looks an awful lot like you. He's sitting on the front row. As a matter of fact, he is your identical twin brother, Congressman Joaquin Castro.

You know, just a few weeks ago, it would have been a lot easier to tell you apart because he...

CASTRO: Right.

LEMON: He had a beard.


CASTRO: So he's in Congress. And when he realized that he didn't look like me anymore and his approval ratings were plummeting, he went back to the no beard look.

LEMON: He says he needs a microphone so he can respond. But there's a joke that you guys always tell about looks, and you say you're...

CASTRO: Well, he introduces himself to everybody by telling people that the way to tell us apart is I am a minute uglier than he is, right? I am actually a minute older than he is.

LEMON: No one has ever heard that joke before, right?

CASTRO: I know, only a million times.


LEMON: No, that was sarcasm. All right. It's good to have you here, Congressman. So, listen, I want to get back to the audience now. I want to bring in Brianna Simmons. Brianna is a junior at Marymount University studying psychology. Hi, Brianna?

QUESTION: Good evening. Serving in President Obama's cabinet, what is one thing you would like to continue from his administration? And what is one thing that you learned under his administration that you would like to change?

CASTRO: I think the thing I most learned, or most saw in his administration, and one of the reasons that I was excited to be a part of it was integrity. We need to restore integrity to the White House.


You know, President Obama was somebody that so many people look up to as a role model. And he and First Lady Michelle Obama and their children led with such grace and class, and we miss that these days.

In terms of something that I learned that I think, you know, we can take next time when we have a Democratic administration, it would be probably to be bold about implementing the kind of changes that we need. Folks have seen, for instance, how many judicial appointments this administration has made compared to the number that the Obama administration made. It's a lot.

In some ways, this administration has been bold, like with judicial nominations. And you know what? We're going to take that, we're going to make sure that we combat climate change by being bold, we're going to invest in things like universal Pre-K and higher education by being bold. We're going to invest in health care for everybody. We're going to be bold, and that's something I'm going to continue.


LEMON: Sammy Saleh is a junior studying politics at Catholic University here in Washington. Sammy? QUESTION: As you are probably aware, there are criticisms of how HUD

has handled the selling of delinquent mortgages to Wall Street banks while you were secretary. Now that you're running for president, how can progressives be sure that you will fight for all Americans and that you are not beholden to Wall Street or that you will not engage in actions like this that can harm black and Latino communities?

CASTRO: Thanks a lot for the question. You know, it was the honor of my lifetime to serve at HUD. And I got there in 2014. One of the things that we worked very hard to do was make sure that people could stay in their home and that more folks who were responsible could become homeowners.

And so some folks had a critique about one of the programs that we had called DASP. And what I did was that we listened to the critics and we started making changes soon after I got to HUD so that more people could stay in their homes, that when a property did have to be sold, that more of them would be sold to nonprofits and to community organizations that cared about community.

And that's what I also think that we need to do going forward. We need to ensure, number one, that we never make the mistakes of 15 years ago, 10 years ago again, but if we ever find ourselves in that kind of situation, that we always put people first, that we always orient our policies to ensure that people can stay in their homes, that folks can find a good, safe, decent place to live.

And during this campaign, one of the things that I've called for is for us to invest in affordable housing.


I bet you that if we went through the debate transcripts of the last 40 or 50 years, Democrat and Republican debates, that we wouldn't see one question that was about housing, even though today, in big cities and small towns, there is an affordability crisis. People are paying 50 percent, 60 percent, 70 percent of their income in rent, right?


So what I learned, what I learned from my time at HUD was that we did a lot of great work. We reduced veteran homelessness in the Obama administration by almost half from 2010 to 2016. We did make sure that people could stay in their home. We made fundamental improvements to investing in communities. At the same time, I think we still need to do a lot more. And I look forward to doing that if I'm president.

LEMON: All right. I want to bring in now Langston Carter. He's a student at American University. And he is an advocate for students and teachers. And he's a supporter of yours. Langston?

QUESTION: Good evening, Secretary Castro. You have previously stated that you support race-based reparations for blacks who have suffered because of slavery, segregation, and housing inequalities. In your opinion, what would be the best way to implement reparations? CASTRO: Yeah, thank you -- first of all, thank you for your support.


And also thanks for the question. Yeah, so this issue came up. People have asked me about reparations. And, you know, the way that I think about this is that I believe that we have never fully addressed in this country the original sin of slavery. And that because of that, we have never truly healed as a country.

And I've said that, you know, if we compensate people under our Constitution, if we take their property, why wouldn't you compensate people who actually were considered property and sanctioned as property by the state?

And sometimes people say, you know, they'll ask me, well, nobody today was a slave-owner and nobody today that's living was a slave. And I say, you know, if somebody is out there that's 25 years old and they say, why are you talking to me? You know, I never owned slaves. I'd say that, you know, that 25-year-old person never fought in the Pacific, that 25-year-old person never had a hand in writing the Constitution of our great country, that 25-year-old person never marched with the women who were marching for the power to vote. They didn't march at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. But when that 25-year-old person goes around the world in many places, they're treated with great respect because they're an American.

In other words, even though we weren't there in past generations, we have inherited a lot of moral assets. But you know what? We've also inherited some moral debts. And one of those debts that we've never paid is the debt for that original sin of slavery.

So I support legislation that Sheila Jackson Lee, Congresswoman Jackson Lee, from Texas has introduced that would appoint a commission to study reparations, and that commission would make a recommendation to the president on how those reparations should be done.

This is important because sometimes people say, well, you know, what is the one best way to do it? And the process here is just as important as the result.

I think of this in the way that I think of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa. There's a healing process that needs to happen. So it's important that we get it right with a group of people from throughout the country that are well respected in their communities to make that kind of recommendation, not that it's just the idea of one person.

LEMON: Well, let me jump in here, because you mentioned...


What would it look like? What does that actually mean? Economists who study reparations say to adequately address the effects of slavery would cost trillions of dollars. Do you think Americans would be OK with that price tag? CASTRO: Well, I think what Americans would be OK with is some sort of

acknowledgment, first of all, an apology for what happened, and some sort of direct acknowledgment for the pain that was caused. You know, the amount, what that would look like, I think that that's -- that would be the role of the commission to make a recommendation on. I don't think that that can come from one individual, because it needs to be about healing as a country, not only one prescription for what we should do.


LEMON: All right. We're going to be back with more from CNN's Democratic presidential town hall with Secretary Julian Castro. Don't go anywhere.


LEMON: And welcome back, everyone, to CNN's Democratic presidential town hall with Secretary Julian Castro. Listen, I want to bring in now Pauline Sarpong. She's a student at Marymount University. She studies politics. She is currently an intern for Maryland Congressman Anthony Brown. Pauline?

QUESTION: You've been a long-time gun control advocate. And you have pushed for renewing assault weapon ban. But most murders that occur in the U.S. are used by handguns. Do you have a separate method in addressing handgun violence?

CASTRO: Yeah, Thank you very much for the question, Pauline. You're right, I have been a strong supporter of commonsense gun reform. You know, I believe that -- and this applies to handguns, as well, that we need to make background checks universal.


There's no reason that somebody who has committed domestic violence should ever get their hands on a gun. Right?

We also need to limit the capacity of magazines. And we need to make sure that we do everything that we can so that people who get their hands on guns do so in a safe way.

So, you know, I support making sure that we make those background checks universal. I support things like gun buybacks. You know, I know that they have had mixed success, but I believe that in some circumstances that's a good policy and that we can recover some weapons that shouldn't be out there on the street.

I also support, though, in a larger way, looking at this issue of gun violence more broadly. For instance, many of the people who end up either injured or killed through use of a handgun commit suicide, but we actually don't talk about that very much.

And so these policies that we want to implement, right, they have to be well rounded. We need to invest in mental health as part of health care, right? We can't separate any longer... (APPLAUSE)

... mental health from health care. Part of that is eliminating the stigma of people who have mental health issues. So if somebody has suicidal feelings, that they can feel more comfortable, you know, going and seeing somebody, a counselor or a psychologist or a psychiatrist, for that.

So I would think about this in a kaleidoscopic way. It's not only about the issue of guns themselves, although I do believe that we need commonsense gun reform. It's also about things like mental health that touch on what leads people to use guns in a bad way.

LEMON: Let's bring in now Donna French.


Donna is an employee at the American -- the Naval Air Warfare Center. Donna, what's your question?

QUESTION: Thank you for having me. The person who sold the fentanyl that killed my son has been in and out of jail for over 20 years. His arrests were primarily possession with intent to distribute. After over a dozen arrests, this person has continued to sell the poison that's killing our children. How would you change the current laws to ensure that these repeat offenders are held accountable?

CASTRO: Thank you very much for that question, and I'm very sorry to hear that.

LEMON: Can I say something before you answer the question? Let me just say this. And pardon me. Three years ago, this is her son we're putting up on the screen. She lost her 24-year-old son, Bryant, from a fentanyl overdose. And I think that's an important part of this so that you can answer the question properly for her. Thank you, Donna.

CASTRO: I'm very sorry to hear about Bryant's death. And thank you for advocating in his name.

I would make sure as president that we have strict penalties, harsh penalties against people who traffic in fentanyl and similar drugs. I also believe that we need to make smart investments in our ports of entry so that we can crack down further on the trafficking of fentanyl and other drugs. You may have seen, for instance, that about five or six weeks ago we had the largest bust of fentanyl in our nation's history. It was 254 pounds, and it came through a port of entry in Arizona.

The president has talked a lot about what we should do at the border. One thing that I believe we should do is to better invest in security at our ports of entry so that we can do things like catch more of the fentanyl that is coming through. And by doing that, and also by punishing people who traffic in it, we can ensure that less people are affected the way that your son, Bryant, was.

LEMON: Can we talk a little bit more? Because, again, it's awful. She doesn't have her son anymore. She's lost her son. What about the seller that keeps getting let out of prison?

CASTRO: Well, I think that -- you know, I agree with those who say that we need harsher sentences for people who sell those drugs. We have -- when it comes to the users of drugs, for instance, people who have used marijuana in comparison, we have locked people up for generations. There are tons and tons of people who have sat in jail for relatively low-level offenses.

We ought to be going after people who are selling these drugs. And so, you know, I believe that we can do a better job, and I'm committed to doing that if I'm president.


LEMON: Donna, let me just say that -- it's very brave of Donna to come here and stand in front of you and talk about this.


I know it's an important issue to you, but I know that a parent losing a child is one of the worst things that can happen. My mother lost her child, my sister, a year ago, and it is the most awful feeling. So I commend you for coming here and your strength. So thank you so much. And we hope that...


Thank you, Donna.

I want to turn now to Francesca Smith. She's a kindergarten teacher at a charter school here in Washington, D.C. Francesca, what's your question?

QUESTION: Good evening. As a former Pre-K teacher, I know that early childhood education is more than just daycare. What is your plan for not only expanding access to Pre-K throughout the country, but also ensuring that it is high quality, especially in the highest need communities?

CASTRO: Thanks, Francesca, for the question. This is actually one of my favorite questions, because, you know, I -- the thing that I'm most proud of was that when I was mayor of San Antonio, we took to the voters a ballot initiative to raise the sales tax by an eighth of a cent to expand high quality full-day Pre-K for our 4-year-olds.

And, you know, we were in Texas, so a lot of people thought we were crazy. But what I could see was that that community, a lot like our nation, needed to improve its educational attainment, because jobs require more knowledge and more skill than ever before, because science is very clear that if you have a dollar to invest in education, the best time to invest it is when a child is young.

And so we need universal Pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds in our country. And that's what I would do if I'm president of the United States.

(APPLAUSE) And, you know...

LEMON: This issue is very important to you.

CASTRO: It is. It is. You know, and let me also say that you can't stop there. Right? We have to improve K-12 education by investing in our public schools, paying teachers what they deserve, making sure that the needs of a child can be met at the school that they attend.

And we need to make higher education universal, so that people can go to a public university, community college, and apprenticeship program, some sort of job training program, at least tuition free so that everybody gets the knowledge and the skills that they need to compete.


LEMON: Kyle Saukas is ready for -- to ask you a question. He's a consultant who works on energy issues. And he is politically active on climate change. He's also a member of the Arlington Young Democrats. Kyle?

QUESTION: Good evening. Secretary Castro, if President Trump were here right now tonight with us and you could provide him one idea or piece of advice that he would follow through on until the end of his term, what would it be and why?


CASTRO: Follow the law.



LEMON: What do you mean by that? Elaborate on that.

CASTRO: Well, that's -- you know, for any other president, that might sound like a joke, right? But look what this president has tried to do. You know, declaring a national emergency so that he could get his wall funding, right? I believe it's against the law.

The way that he has moved forward on a number of different policies. What they're talking about today, just the news that people are seeing tonight, right, the breaking news about trying to get undocumented immigrants shipped into communities where political opponents represent.

You know, I would tell this president that he is not above the law, that he needs to follow the law and understand that our Constitution created three co-equal branches so that he should respect Congress and respect the courts, and I think that's going to make for a better nation if he did that.

LEMON: All right.

(APPLAUSE) We're going to be right back with more from CNN's Democratic presidential town hall with Secretary Julian Castro. We'll be right back.



LEMON: And we are back from the CNN's Democratic president town hall and Secretary Julian Castro.

It's good to have you here.

CASTRO: Great to be here.

LEMON: More questions from the audience, OK? This is Daniel Smolyak. He's a junior at the University of Maryland, studying computer science and economics. Daniel?

QUESTION: Good evening, Secretary Castro. Given the plethora of threats, both military and otherwise, coming from countries such as Russia, China, and North Korea, what are your foreign policy priorities? And what will be your general approach towards diplomacy with countries that are often hostile to American interests and values?

CASTRO: Great question, Daniel. I think that's on the minds of a lot of Americans in different ways.

Number one, I would repair the damage that this president has done to alliances around the world that have helped keep us safer. You know, one of the great things we did post-World War II was to forge alliances, especially with Europe, and stand up institutions like NATO that have helped keep us safer and helped keep the world safer. At the same time, this president seems to have gone out of his way to tear apart those alliances, to disrespect world leaders, to call into question institutions that have served us well.

My first order of business would be to make sure that we repair those alliances. As I see it, the country has a role to lead for the values that we believe in, for freedom, democracy, and opportunity. That doesn't mean that we entangle ourselves in wars. We saw what can happen when we make a mistake, like the Iraq war. Right?

However, I do think that we need to reclaim our role as the world leader in standing up for things like human rights around the world.


I also believe -- I also believe that we're going to compete. We live in a 21st century global economy. We need to make sure that we always protect our American workers and companies, that they benefit by whatever we do in terms of trade. But we are going to compete in a 21st century global economy, and we need to do that effectively.

[22:40:00] And we're going to crack down on people who cheat, whether it's within a trade agreement or outside of that. The United States has a role. We also look -- before we ever enter into any kind of trade agreement, we want to make sure that we have tougher environmental standards, labor standards, and enforcement standards.


So -- and then I would actually strike out on some new ground that I mentioned a little bit earlier that hasn't been part of, I think, as robust a part of our foreign policy. I've propose a 21st century Marshall Plan for Central and Latin America.

Look, we need our neighbors. We have countries like China that are going around the world right now forging alliances in Africa, in Latin America. China is getting stronger, militarily and economically. So today we need friends more than ever before. And I would make sure that we forge stronger partnerships, especially in Latin America, with our neighbors, to their benefit and to our benefit.


LEMON: All right. I'm going to bring in Robert Lyons. Robert is all the way from Iowa, but he's pursuing a master's degree at American University. Robert?

CASTRO: Can I have your vote, Robert?


QUESTION: We'll see. Good evening, Secretary Castro.

CASTRO: Good evening.

QUESTION: The 2016 election showed the country and the world that the United States was unprepared to deal with foreign interference in our elections. Since that time, the Trump administration has taken little to no action to ensure this won't happen again. What preventative programs and processes should we be implementing at the national level to restrict foreign interference, stem the tide of misinformation, and ensure the integrity of our elections?

CASTRO: Thank you very much for that question. Number one, we need to see the Mueller report. We need to know the extent of Russia meddling in our elections.


It's important that the American people see the Mueller report, get the full truth. That's the past. Maybe most importantly, going forward, we need a standard for cybersecurity for our elections. It is absolutely amazing that in county after county across the United States they have different voting machines, different standards for how they handle information. There's no one uniform standard to ensure that there's absolute security and integrity of the franchise. I would make sure that we do that.

And just as importantly, I would fund communities to be able to upgrade their equipment. I think that we need to create a paper trail, a paper ballot...


... so that we can see -- you know, have a check on how people voted. And this is not hard stuff. But we need to get onto it, because 2016 was not the end of it. We've been told very clearly that they're going to try this again in 2020 and beyond. So we need that national standard. And we need to invest county by county where elections happen in greater security.

LEMON: All right. There's a lot of folks who've got a lot of questions here we want to get to, so I want to move on and get Aaron Stone. He's a special education teacher here in Washington. Aaron?

QUESTION: That's right. First of all, shoutout to my DCI Dragons who are watching.


So at the -- whoa, that's right.


So at the end of the day, some of us like to decompress, whether it's listening to music, binging on Netflix, or smoking marijuana. What is your position on legalizing not only medical marijuana, but recreational use for adults?

QUESTION: Not to go unnoticed, his last name is "stone."


CASTRO: It's all right, man. Look, your last name is Stone. I won't assume that you're a stoner. My last name is Castro, don't assume I'm a dictator. All right?


No, I actually support the legalization of marijuana. And let me tell you why. Number one, we have enough experience in states like Colorado and other communities across our country that have shown how you can do this, how you can do it in a sensible way with good regulation. It's going to be regulated, right? People are not going to be able to do whatever they want, but a well-regulated, legalized system of marijuana, I think, makes sense.

On top of that, we need to go back and expunge the records of people who were imprisoned because of using marijuana.


And this is important. This part is important in part because there are a lot of people -- and folks in this audience probably know some of them -- who have served jail time, right, and disproportionately it's impacted communities of color and poor neighborhoods of people who have been imprisoned because of marijuana use.

So it's not enough just to say we want to legalize it. We actually want to go back and expunge these records. And we need to make sure that we take the best practices of states like Colorado and other places that have legalized it, so that in the future states that do it afterward can get the best of that knowledge and, you know, not hit as many bumps in the road as some places have hit before.


LEMON: OK. Robin Holliday is from Maryland. You can give him a round of applause if you want.


Robin Holliday is from Maryland. She worked in national security for 26 years before leaving to open an art gallery. Robin?

QUESTION: Hello, sir. My art gallery has been destroyed now twice by devastating floods in Ellicott City, Maryland. The first one was in 2016, and we were told it was a thousand-year flood. So we all rebuilt. And in 20 months, a more devastating flood came through. Our businesses were destroyed; homes and people's lives were lost.

Our current administration will not admit that climate change is real. They ignore the science, and people are getting hurt. So my question for you, sir, is what bold, tangible, real action would you take to address climate change?


CASTRO: I would start on day one. I would recommit the United States to the Paris climate accord. And, you know, your -- first of all, I'm very sorry about what has happened to your business. And, you know, it says a lot about you that you rebuilt your business, and then it happened again. That shouldn't happen.

And we see these natural disasters happening with more frequency. The floods, you know, the hurricanes, and they're getting stronger, too. There was a report that was released -- I'm sure a lot of people here saw -- probably about two months or so ago that said that we have about a dozen years to get this right, to combat climate change or else the consequences could be tragic.

So what are we going to do? I like the concept of a Green New Deal. We need to invest in renewable energy. We need to drastically cut down carbon emissions. We need to convince other countries around the world to do the same thing. We can't do that right now, because this president has chosen to bury his head in the sand along with his administration and to deny that there is a problem.

But we know the truth. I'm proud that when I was secretary of housing and urban development, we worked with housing authorities across the United States to improve their embrace of renewable energy, solar energy, other types of renewable energy.

We did something called the National Disaster Resilience Competition. And it was a $1 billion project. And the idea was that for communities that were recovering from a natural disaster, let's not just rebuild in the same way, but let's do it in a sustainable way so that if the next storm comes, you're actually more likely to withstand it.

That's important, because it's not enough for us to be reactive. We have to be proactive. And this young generation have been absolutely fantastic when it comes to climate change. It's been great to hear their voice. And I hope that their voice is heard at the ballot box in November of 2020. And we will combat climate change.

LEMON: We're going to take another short break, and we'll be back with more of CNN's Democratic presidential town hall with Secretary Julian Castro.



LEMON: Welcome back to CNN's Democratic presidential town hall with Secretary Julian Castro. Secretary, I want to bring in Elsa Calderon. She is a student at Loyola University Chicago, currently interning for a nonprofit here in Washington that advocates for Hispanic Americans. Elsa?

QUESTION: Thank you. As the only Latino presidential candidate, how you using your voice and your ties to mobilize the Latino community to vote?

CASTRO: Thanks a lot for the question. You know, I'm very proud of my background, and I think voters are going to make the decision on a lot of things, right, your experience, your message, how everybody gets out there and delivers their vision for the future of their country, your track record.

But to me, it is meaningful to be able to run right now when the Latino community feels like this president has put a target on their back. And my hope is that not only am I going to be offering a different vision for the future of this country, one that is inclusive, one that is based in integrity, one that is set in the future about what we can become as a country and not stuck in the past, but also that there might be some little Latino boys or girls that say, hey, if he's doing that, I can do that, too. I hope that that happens.


LEMON: I want to step in here, because you mentioned your grandmother. And I know that this is something that's very important to you and your brother. Your grandmother came here -- you shared this story before. Your grandmother came here when she was 7 years old. And you talk about you and your brother sharing a bedroom with her. You said it was as cramped as a car trunk. CASTRO: It was, yeah, it was.

LEMON: So what do you think it would mean to her to see her grandson running as president of the United States?

CASTRO: I can imagine the tears in her eyes, you know, because she literally would scrub floors and make food and babysit for people. And for her to believe, for her to see one of her grandsons become the president, she couldn't even imagine it.

But that's also the beauty of our country. I think that it would affirm the love that she had for this country that had taken her in. And it would say to her, you know, it's true that anything is possible in America. And we need to get back to an America where everything is possible for everybody.


LEMON: I think she'd be very proud to see you and your brother, what you've done thus far. Thank you so much.

Listen, I want to thank the secretary.


I want to thank our audience. And I want to tell you, make sure you tune in on Sunday, 7:00 p.m. Eastern, for two more CNN Democratic presidential town halls. The first one will be with author Marianne Williamson, moderated by our very own Dana Bash, followed by businessman Andrew Yang, moderated by Ana Cabrera.

Thanks, everyone, again. "Cuomo Primetime" starts right now.