Skip to main content
Visit the Midday Edition homepage

Trump Calls For Bipartisanship, A Hard Line On Immigration

February 6, 2019 1:54 p.m.

Trump Calls For Bipartisanship, A Hard Line On Immigration


Casey Dominguez, political science professor, University of San Diego

Ev Meade, director, Trans-Border Institute

Paola Avila, vice president of international business affairs, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce

Subscribe to the Midday Edition podcast on iTunes, Google Play or your favorite podcatcher.

Related Story: Trump Calls For Bipartisanship, A Hard Line On Immigration


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

When President Donald Trump delivered the annual State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress last night. Many of the issues he addressed have a direct impact on San Diego. We want to explore local reaction to the speech on a few major topic.

So first we reached out to members of the San Diego congressional delegation for reaction. Republican Duncan Hunter declined. So we start with comments from Congressman Scott Peters.

I was sorry to say you to sit in there and hear him talk about the border in the way that he's characterize it because we know that every day important commerce happens across the port of entry that benefits both sides of the border that Mexico is part of our economy and our culture.

Freshman Congressman Mike Levin said this about the speech last night.

I was encouraged in some ways hearing the president speak about unity and bipartisanship was good. But then after talking about unity he laid out a very divisive policy agenda. Ultimately it's not compromise. If the president expects his way or no way at all.

And San Diego Congresswoman Susan Davis had this reaction.

Well as we were preparing in the chamber really to hear and I think we're all wondering which version or which Donald Trump was going to show up.

And I think after the speech we realized that both of them did in a written statement Congressman Juan Vargas said quote President Trump's address failed to offer any real solutions to strengthen our country or create a sense of unity. His message was based on gross misinformation intended to mislead the American people instilling fear should not be how a president leads a nation unquote.

Joining us for a roundtable discussion on the local impacts of the state of the Union address are Paola Aviles vice president of International Business Affairs for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. Paola welcome. Thank you for having me. Ev Mead is also joining us. He's the director of the trans border Institute at the University of San Diego. Welcome Ev. Thanks for having me. And Casey you don't as political science professor at the University of San Diego she studies elections political parties and the presidency. Casey thanks for joining us.

Thanks for having me.

Well welcome to you all. The president last night started off with a message of bipartisanship with lines like quote victory is not winning for our party it's winning for our country. But that tone faded as he made his border wall a central part of his speech. Here's a clip from his remarks.

San Diego used to have the most illegal border crossings in our country. In response a strong security wall was put in place this powerful barrier almost completely ended illegal crossings have let me go to you what impact has the border fence had on illegal crossings in the San Diego area.

Well the San Diego area is certainly true that if you know if you go back before 1992 you really started building fences in the late 90s when we built a strip stronger barriers. There was a lot more crossing. It was a lot more chaotic. It was harder on the environment. If you talk to Border Patrol agents and those days every night was a kind of wrestle mania with people crossing the border is very chaotic and is very dangerous in the building of the fence at least in that narrow sphere. Did sort of reduce the chaos and it did reduce crossings there.

The problem is it shifted those to the eastern California desert and to Arizona and others it had a negligible impact on the overall phenomenon of people crossing and unauthorized.

The other thing is it raised the danger of those crossings dramatically. I mean you can trace it. I mean right to the building of the wall you can see the number of deaths on the border just spike up and it's never really come down you know we have an average of more than 250 deaths per year on the U.S. Mexico border. And even as unauthorized migration has gone down the number of deaths has stayed really high. So you know I think we have to think about that history and we also think about we the Pacific Ocean next door and you know the more we wall off the land border the more we should expect people to come by sea and other dangerous routes.

And could there be any truth to what the president is saying. Is there a link between the fence along our border and San Diego's low crime rates.

I think there is not and there's very good data that shows that first of all the border counties are some of the safest counties in the United States. And if you look at the two of the safest big cities in the United States it's El Paso and San Diego. And it doesn't correlate with the building and the fence. What happened the United States is we have a long term decline in violent crime that we can trace back to the early 1990s. And if you look at the major causal factors they don't have anything to do with immigration.

POWELL You know my boss has said Jerry Sanders who served as chief of police during this period and he will tell you as I've had many conversations with him that the wall did not have a direct impact. It wasn't that it was bridges that were built cross-border collaboration and collaboration between between law enforcement and the community. And that San Diego has always been a safe city and it's always been among the top 10 list.

Paul I was curious to know what are you hearing from members of the chamber does the border wall matter to them. Does the president's message on the border resonate with them.

For us the building business relationships economic relationships with our number one trading partner our number one consumer market which is Mexico is critical. And how do you deal and foster those business relationships. It's not through putting up barriers and through negative rhetoric. We want to extend those business relationships and foster them. And so there is a great understanding that that a militarization of our border and talks of barriers further barriers when we're talking about building bridges is not productive in economic terms. So then Pablo what kind of a border policy would the chamber support.

Well we've long been advocating before this administration came into office long been advocating for funding to improve our ports of entry which is critical to the commerce and safety of of the border increasing staffing of our agents. You know investing in technology these are things that are you know we're greatly under utilizing technology we're greatly understaffed at our ports of entry. That is where we've been focusing our advocacy for years and continue to do so.

Casey Domingos the government is up against a February 15th deadline to strike a deal on funding the Department of Homeland Security with the wall being the main sticking point. Given the president's remarks yesterday is that an indication to you that we could be headed for another shutdown.

Well I think when we think about a shutdown we have to consider that Congress has a big role to play in whether or not that happens. And there's there's this ongoing conference committee where members of both the Republican and Democratic parties from both the House and the Senate are trying to put together a funding deal for the government to keep the government open and the wall certainly is part of what they're talking about to the degree that the president sort of didn't back away from his insistence on a wall during the speech. I suppose that that might indicate that that that his position is still that he'd prefer a shot down to no wall.

But it's not at all clear that that's Congress's position at this point. I think that the public and the media and even people in the Republican Party in Congress considered that the shutdown fight over the wall to be a losing losing effort. And I don't think there's really any desire to repeat that. Congress doesn't need the president's approval to pass a funding bill. They could over if he if they put something on his desk he can sign or veto it if he vetoes it they can override it. So I I don't think he moved the needle at all.

He restated his existing position but I think Congress is going to proceed without necessarily considering that at this point.

And you know the president mentioned he's sending another 30 700 troops to the border and you know although he didn't declare a national emergency for a border wall last night California's attorney general having a busy Sarah in his Spanish rebuttal to the State of the Union said California would sue the Trump administration if he tried to declare a national emergency. Is that still on the table.

I guess it is. I mean that the legality of that is complex because while there are California National Guard that the bill is actually paid by the federal government. But you know if you look of New Mexico has done New Mexico has withdrawn their their National Guard from the border because they found it was totally ineffective. They weren't really doing anything. I mean there it really was just a symbolic show of force that creates exactly the kind of negative environment that policing is so dangerous for our binational relationship with Mexico.

It didn't really accomplish anything. And the sad thing is that there are things we need to accomplish there. I mean you know we have in Tijuana and other border cities we have a serious humanitarian situation I'm not going to use the word crisis because I don't think it's something that should lead us to set aside all the rules which is essentially what you do in a crisis it's a way to get around the democratic process. But there's real issues that we could deal with and we could deal with in a much better fashion.

But if we could use those resources much more productively and I want to switch gears to the economy and trade he spent time talking about the record low unemployment and economic growth. So power is San Diego reaping the benefits of the economic growth that we're seeing at the national level.

I would say comparable to any other metropolitan area. Certainly we we see the trend continuing. The forecast for 2019 continuing while there's some conservative moves to take precautions against possible downturn hiring continues to be to increase we actually have a worker shortage here. So yeah I mean if the economy continues to show strength.

Trade is something that's important to the chamber. Here's what the president had to say yesterday. I hope you can pass the USMC into law so that we can bring back.

Our manufacturing jobs and even greater numbers expand American agriculture protect intellectual property and ensure that more cars are proudly stamped with our four beautiful words made in the USA.

Paller where does the passage of the USMC a rank on your list of legislative priorities for the year.

Number one. The critical part about this is not bringing manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. which there is no sign and no proof that that would happen. It's more to keep our manufacturing jobs in the U.S. and to stamp our products with made in North America. That is what makes us competitive and will continue the growth that we see in the U.S. are jobs that we actually have many manufacturing jobs in the U.S. already in San Diego. They're among the highest paying but we will lose those without this training block. Without this relationship that is what makes us competitive.

That is what makes San Diego competitive especially because of our our geographic location right on the border. It is critical to maintain this trade agreement. We disagree with the sentiment and what was said last night that NAFTA was the greatest trade blunder we support. Now if the NAFTA actually has been hugely important for our region and for the and for the nation. So just maintaining that trilateral trilateral trading bloc is critical.

Quickly let me ask you Paula what about the tariffs. The president said are bringing millions to the U.S. Treasury at the expense of Americans and consumers.

OK then.

Well the president did make efforts at presenting a unified message yesterday while also making divisive comments throughout the speech like this one an economic miracle is taking place in the United States.

And the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars politics or ridiculous partisan investigations.

So on that Casey do you think this speech laid the groundwork for any bipartisan efforts.

Well I think we have to think about what the capacity is for a speech like this. The president really there's lots of research that shows that presidents don't persuade people with their words. And so when we look at a state of the Union it's its ability to move the needle one way or the other is in terms of agenda setting. Did he put anything on the table that could be on the agenda for both Democrats and Republicans. And the answer to that is really no he didn't try to prioritize let's get a deal.

Democrats and Republicans working together that wasn't a main part of the speech. He sort of talked through a sentence about infrastructure and talked through a sentence about prescription drugs. And so if you if bipartisanship and working together and getting something done even know that there are existing disagreements with something he was really going for and prioritizing that. That's that's not what this speech did an F.

Yeah. You know I would just say also that there there are compromise measures even within them the most controversial things like immigration enforcement. There's nobody there is a significant majority in Congress for example that would support tightening the visa system which is actually how most unauthorized works get the United States and not the southern border it's by a factor of two. And yet we hear we hear almost nothing about that. There are lots of gestures he could make even on issues like that that would get bipartisan support. He could make a DACA a clean Dream Act and it would get massive support in the public and Congress and they haven't done it.

Quickly let me go roundtable EV what's an issue you think that the president of the Congress could actually agree with.

I think actually the focus on Central America and on coming up with a long term structural solution. I mean the comments by Secretary Pompeo and their commitment to do some funding of some kind of Marshall Plan there that's actually proceeding apace it doesn't get a lot of the headlines but that might be why it's working.

And Pamela I actually Rina agree with that and immigration reform he mentioned in the speech last night. Immigrants enrich our community enrich our nation. Couldn't agree more and that he wants to wants people to come into the country in the largest numbers. We need that to address our workforce needs Congress and the president agree on what.

Casey. Yeah I mean I honestly comprehensive immigration reform has been on the table for a decade and there's compromises to be made there. And like I said infrastructure prescription drugs they could agree on on things if they if they tried.

I have been speaking we have been speaking with our roundtable guests Paola Vila of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce Ev Meade director of the transporter Institute at the University of San Diego and Casey Dominguez political science professor at the University of San Diego. Thank you all.