San Antonio at SXSW: Politics, tech, immigration in the spotlight

By Edmond Ortiz

Former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro was among a handful of presidential candidates and other politicians taking part in Conversations About America’s Future, a
collaborative series devised by the Texas Tribune and CNN at the South by Southwest festival (SXSW).

Castro told his interviewer, Huffington Post news editor-in-chief Lydia Polgreen, that his time as mayor of one of the nation’s biggest cities and his tenure as President Obama’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Department  prepared him for a White House run.

Castro called President Trump a failure in public leadership: “Some people thought that by voting for someone in business, who they believed had accomplished some good in business, that it would translate into being effective as a manager of a team.”

Castro said he was not concerned with what is shaping up to be a crowded Democratic field in 2020. Rather, Castro added, the wide range of candidates will provide Americans with a variety of voices, ideas and visions in the upcoming presidential election cycle.

Polgreen asked Castro about immigration, which is expected to be one of the most fiery issues in 2020. Castro said that, as mayor, he held reservations about some parts of then-President Obama’s immigration policy.

However, the Trump administration, “turned its back” on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and has placed an emphasis on child separation at the border, Castro explained.

“The Trump administration has enforced its policy with a cruelty that was not the case in the Obama administration,” he added.

San Antonio Express-News veteran journalist Lomi Kriel was on a panel about media coverage of the child separation crisis at the U.S./Mexico border, an issue she has consistently led on.

Now reporting on immigration for the Houston Chronicle, Kriel said that, early on, many migrant families who followed guidance to seek political asylum at a legal port of entry ended up being separated anyway.

As a consequence, other northbound migrant families try to enter the United States in between ports of entry.
Kriel also said the government agencies overseeing immigration and border security often defer to each other, passing up responsibilities like a political hot potato. There’s a need, Kriel said, for such agencies to hold each other more accountable.

In the end, Kriel said, it’s important for readers on both sides of the border to have a proper perspective about immigration.

“Part of the challenge is, reminding people who (the migrants) are, who they are behind the numbers, that they are just like us in a way,” she added.

U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio) had a busy day March 10, participating in three technology policy-related panels. Expounding upon various topics, Hurd said different technologies are emerging with many potential benefits, such as helping to develop different kinds of tech workforce pipelines.

He noted one effort to build a reserve cyber corps, where civilians and military service members develop their tech skills with a government agency or program before seeking a permanent job elsewhere.

He added that talent pipeline, coupled with proper government policy, will help the United States to better compete with rising marketplaces such as China.
“This is really about how does the technology of the future develop based on our ideals versus an authoritarian regime, and that’ll dictate whether our economy stays the No. 1 economy in the world,” he added.

But there’s always the risks that tech can pose to privacy. Hurd suggested people simply be smart about how and where they provide their information online.

San Antonio’s tech advocates and designers were making an impact elsewhere at SXSW. Once again the nonprofit organization Tech Bloc took part in the trade show.
Tech Bloc representatives talked with visitors, including a handful of job-seekers and gathering resumes from many of them. Tech Bloc members also promoted San Antonio as hub for innovation and startups, and not just the tech-centric ventures.

Meanwhile, local architect Siboney Díaz-Sánchez was one of 23 designers nationwide chosen to display their work in Beyond the Built Environment’s Say It Loud exhibit. The exhibit features a diverse range of architecture and design professionals celebrating their favorite project that reflects their community.

Díaz-Sánchez was asked to apply for this year’s Say It Loud exhibit, which showed for a few days during the SXSW trade show.

She got to feature her work on ChildSafe’s new multi-disciplinary center. The building was designed as a restorative space where children can heal from abuse while legal proceedings on their long-term welfare can proceed.

“It feels good to be recognized, but amazing to be recognized with the other designers,” Díaz-Sánchez said. “I think there is value to having people know about ChildSafe in San Antonio.”