As The Seattle Times points out today, both Republican candidates vying to succeed retiring Congressional Representative Brian Baird in southwest Washington's 3rd District take a tough stance toward illegal immigration. But the Times neglected to discuss the ethnic background of both candidates, which is what makes their position on the issue the most interesting.
Anti-immigration sentiments go down well among tea partiers, so perhaps it's no surprise that Castillo and Herrera subscribe to them. And their Hispanic surnames may give them added credibility on the issue.
Castillo is a former Navy sailor and onetime functionary in the Homeland Security and Veteran Affairs departments under George W. He now works as a financial advisor. In an interview today, he explained that he is not actually Hispanic by blood. His mother was Irish-American and his biological father was African-American. But he grew up in the Mexican-American culture in the Centralia area and the man he thought was his father was Mexican-American. Only later did he learn differently.
He says his ethnic identity has little to with his positions on immigration. He supports beefing up security measures at the border, refusing driver's licenses to illegal immigrants and, like Arizona, using local law enforcement to identify people who could be deported. He stops short of endorsing raids that "round people up," a position he says has caused him flak from diehard anti-immigration activists. But just as they do, he opposes proposals to create a way for illegal immigrants already here to become citizens.
The people whom he still calls his grandparents--the parents of his adopted father--would approve, he says, adding that they emigrated legally from Mexico and believed "in coming here the right way."
He also notes that he met with a group of Latinos at Vancouver's Morelia Mexican Grill some months ago, and that the crowd seemed to respect his positions and his honesty about them.
But David Govea, Morelia's proprietor and a onetime illegal immigrant who now holds a green card, says that Castillo didn't flesh out the details of his stands on immigration. Castillo said merely that "he believed in the law," according to Govea, who after the meeting pledged to support the candidate.
Told more about his positions during a conversation with Seattle Weekly, Govea changed his mind. "He's not going to get any help from Latinos," Govea said. Same goes for Herrera, he said, adding that he already knew about her harsh stands on immigration.
Although Herrera's bios don't discuss her ethnicity, Govea says that Herrera is known in the Vancouver area as Hispanic and various press reports (although not today's Times story) refer to her that way. A Politico piece , for instance, labeled her a "bright recruit" for a Republican party eager to diversity. She did not return calls seeking an interview.