Democratic Mayor Julián Castro and GOP lieutenant governor candidate Dan Pat- rick of Houston clashed over immigration policy on Tuesday in a rowdy debate that left both politicians claiming victory.
The politicians stood by the sharply different stances that brought them to their much ballyhooed face-off, at times in conciliatory tones and occasionally with biting rhetoric.
Repeating banter that initially erupted on social media, Castro pleaded for a comprehensive overhaul of immigration law and portrayed Patrick as too harsh on immigrants, while Patrick painted Castro’s approach as too liberal and unfair to citizens.
Taped before guests at Univision studios and streamed live on the Web, the hourlong showdown gave Castro an opportunity to dispute Patrick’s campaign claims about the extent of unauthorized immigration and the lack of border security, while Patrick assailed Castro and other Democrats for embracing immigrant law-breakers seeking citizenship.
The encounter was the first meeting for the two officials, whose conversation was guided by Texas Tribune Editor in Chief Evan Smith, and it started out on a lively note with Castro as the aggressor, calling Patrick “part of the problem” in the political stalemate over immigration reform.
“On Twitter, in front of the Alamo, in your campaign, you’ve been huffing and puffing like the Big Bad Wolf and now you’re dancing around like Little Red Riding Hood. That is not leadership,” Castro said.
“Nobody is disagreeing with you, senator, when you talk about the need to clamp down on coyotes (smugglers), on people who are crossing here illegally,” Castro said.
One thing I think we can all agree on is that the clear loser of this debate was David Dewhurst. Not that anybody cares about David Dewhurst. Beyond that, I would suggest that one way to evaluate a contest like this is to measure how fired up each side’s supporters are afterward. I’ll let someone else check on Patrick’s fans, but it’s clear that Team Castro was pretty happy with how it went.
Another way to assess the outcome is the “If you’re lying, you’re losing” metric:
The exchange grew heated when Castro questioned Patrick’s claims, based on a state report, about the extent of crime tied to immigrants.
“The Express-News and Houston Chronicle looked into that and they said that’s bogus,” Castro said. “You have a way with statistics and trying to exaggerate them,” Castro said.
Patrick denied that and repeatedly urged Castro to “read the report” he had cited.
In 2006, Patrick claimed that undocumented immigrants were responsible for spreading diseases largely banished from developed countries.
“They are bringing Third World diseases with them,” Patrick said, according to The Texas Observer, listing “tuberculosis, malaria, polio and leprosy.”
State health officials say there’s little basis for those claims.
Take polio for instance. The Department of State Health Services couldn’t provide any information about cases because the disease has been “eradicated in the Western hemisphere,” said Chris Van Deusen, a spokesman for the DSHS.
All of Texas’ malaria cases are imported, he said, and not by immigrants. Instead, those infected typically were traveling to or from a part of the world, such as Africa, where the disease is rampant.
While there is a link between immigration and leprosy, now known as Hansen’s disease, Van Deusen said, there is an equally strong link between contracting it and contact with armadillos or coming from an old European family that has a genetic quirk making them susceptible to the disease.
Most humans, he pointed out, are genetically immune from getting Hansen’s, which is not easily spread.