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A little respect for your elders might be in order

21 June 2012

Mexican-born Nogales Arizona resident Raul Héctor Castro  was detained last week at the U.S. Border Patrol internal checkpoint in Tubac, Arizona as a “nuclear threat”.  Despite assurances that any radiation detection was caused by a medical test Castro had undergone the day before, he was forced to get out of the air conditioned car in which he was traveling, and sit in a tent in the desert wearing a suit in  40° C  [100°F] heat as the Border Patrol agents scooted around looking for the right forms and did whatever it is they do to confirm the obvious.  Well, after all, he is a brown guy, and this was in Arizona,  but still…

OK, maybe it is a little elitist to presume Castro should have been entitled to “special rights” just because he was a United States Ambassador under three Presidents (Johnson, Nixon and Carter), or because he is well-known in at least Democratic Party circles in his home state.  Maybe having been the Governor of Arizona from 1975 to 1977 should have carried some weight, but I suppose even that might be a stretch.  But, maybe… just maybe… the Border Patrol should have given some consideration to the fact that Castro was on his way to his birthday party… he turned 96 on 12 July

We shouldn’t be surprised… it’s not the Governor’s first run in with the Border Patrol.  Interviewed by Arizona Public Media earlier this year, Castro mentioned that:

 … when he was a Pima County Superior Court judge, the first person of Mexican descent elected to a judgeship, Border Patrol officers almost arrested him as he painted a fence in front of his house. When they realized he was a Superior Court judge, they fled, he says.

“Even though the law provides no profiling, do you think if I had been blue-eyed and freckle-faced, they would have stopped me? Of course not.”

The nuclear threat. Photo: Arizona Public Media

Governor Castro was born in Cananea, Sonora,  emigrating to the United States at the age of 10.  He was not the first U.S. governor to have been born in Mexico (that would have been George P. Romney — Mitt’s dad — who came to the United States from his native Chihuahua at the age of five), but the first — and only — Arizona governor of Mexican heritage.  An outstanding athlete (both as a runner and as a boxer) he earned an athletic scholarship to what is now Northern Arizona State University, graduating in 1939. Despite the scholarship, he had to work summers, as a copper miner, earning, as he recalled last year, half of what Anglo miners were paid.

After graduation, he worked as a State Department clerk in a border post, he entered law school, and began his political career as a county prosecutor, mostly running as a challenge to friends who said a Mexican could never win  public office in Arizona.  He was serving as Pima County Superior Court Judge when he was named  by Lyndon Johnson to serve as  U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador in 1964.  From 1968 until 1972, he served as U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia.

After “retiring” from the State Department, he moved to Nogales to practice International Law, running unsuccessfully for Arizona Governor in 1970, and successfully in 1974.  He resigned office three years into his four year term when he was again named to a diplomatic post:  President Jimmy Carter appointing  Castro Ambassador to Argentina.

He is still active, occasionally showing up at party events (and his own birthday party, if he can get there) and is the oldest living former U.S. state governor.

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