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Other 2020 Dems begin sharpening criticism of Beto O'Rourke

FILE - In this Feb. 28, 2019 file photo, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary and Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro visits with people at a taco truck in North Las Vegas, Nev. Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro says the Latino community's bilingual, ambitious youth are one of America's best assets to remain competitive in the world. Castro made the comments at a luncheon Friday, March 15, 2019, before Latino business leaders in Las Vegas as he made his third visit to Nevada as a 2020 hopeful. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Presidential candidate Julian Castro told a room full of business leaders Friday that the Latino community's bilingual, ambitious young people are one of America's best assets as it seeks to remain competitive in the world.

The former Obama administration Housing and Urban Development secretary didn't dive into his policy platform as he addressed the Latino Leaders Network luncheon. Instead, he praised Nevada leaders and the Latino community while mingling with former Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and others.

He bookended the speech with private meetings with U.S. Rep. Dina Titus and former Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, both fellow Democrats. He planned to end the evening by meeting with voters at a downtown Las Vegas bar.

The former mayor of San Antonio is the only Latino candidate so far in a Democratic field with at least 15 contenders. He has stood out from the pack by highlighting immigration issues.

Castro has persistently hammered President Donald Trump's immigration policies and has said tackling immigration reform that provides with a path to citizenship for those living in the country illegally would be among his first priorities.

He only briefly touched on the issue Friday when he highlighted his twin brother, Democratic U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas, and his sponsorship of the resolution passed by Congress on Thursday to block Trump's declaration of an emergency on the U.S.-Mexico border to pay for his border wall. Trump vetoed the resolution Friday.

Castro has made more visits than any other 2020 contender this year to Nevada, a state with a 29 percent Latino population whose early caucus next year will be the first test of a candidate's appeal to a diverse electorate.

In what have become monthly visits to Las Vegas, Castro has consistently held meetings with Latino business leaders, immigration advocates and student activists.

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Following his afternoon speech, Castro made an appearance at a women's conference of the League of United Latin American Citizens, the oldest Latino civil rights organization in the U.S.

As a heavily female crowd of about 50 people sampled hors d'oeuvres and sipped cocktails wine, Castor derided the president as someone who is "using immigrants as a pinata" and ignored their contributions to society. He also jabbed at Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan, saying, "I won't want to make America anything again. I want to make this country better than it ever has been."

Castro said one of the moments he most looks forward to if he wins the presidency would be when he'd watch Trump leave the White House for the last time.

"Right before he walks off, just as he's about to leave," Castro said, "I'm going to tell him: 'Adios.'"

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