Roundtable: A Deep Dive Into DACA
MS: The future of young emigrants is thrown into chaos as the Trump administration ditches that DACA program. Leaders are trying to protect them and mixed messages wonder will he or will he not revisit the issue if Congress fails to come up with a replacement? I am Mark Saur and KPBS Roundtable starts now. MS: Welcome to our discussion on the top stories. Joining me with the Roundtable, Chris Jennewein, Editor and publisher of Times of San Diego. CJ: It is great to be here. MS: It is good to have you back today. MS: Hello, Tony. MS: Kate Morrissey. KM: Hello. MS: It is good to have you here. MS: And Art Castanares is here. MS: They were brought here as children and this is the only country they have known. There is one quarter of the emigrants, this is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It is set up in 2012 for by the Obama administration to temporarily protect those brought here illegally by their parents to protect them from deportation. They said it would be winding down in six months and hedged on whether this is definitely the end of DACA. Here's a clip that starts with Trump and tracks the back and forth this week. Clip: We love the dreamers. We love everybody. Thank you very much. We are people of compassion and we are people of law, but there is nothing compassionate about the failure to enforce immigration laws except. I really believe Washington will take care the situation. Even conservative members of Congress have seen it firsthand. If they don't come we will see what we will do. I hope and I pray and I do not say that is a cliche. I am praying that the president really cares about the dreamers and that we are going to pass this bill. MS: That was President Trump and Jeff Sessions and Nancy Pelosi. It has been a wild ride on this issue. President says he hopes Congress can find a solution. And we will get into the politics in a minute but start with the nuts and bolts here. As we say, it is a very complicated issue and people are talking about a lot things this week. What are the requirements for the DACA participants and what are the benefits? KM: Sure. People who were eligible for DACA had to come to the U.S. before they were 16 years old and it was a limited group out of the larger group of the dreamers that were brought here as children. They also had to be an enrolled in school, graduated from school, had a GED or something to that effect and showing they are pursuing education and they had to have no significant criminal history. They have to do a lot in terms of that. Like you said, it protects them from deportation. It is a two-year renewable promise that they will not be deported. It also makes them eligible to apply to work in the U.S. with permission. That was the big benefit for the program. MS: Chris, why this week? What is the timing with the Attorney General and this president this weekend? CJ: DACA was facing a legal challenge. It was led by the state of Texas and initially, there were nine other states involved because Tennessee cited the human component of it. It came to a head on Tuesday, the day of the announcement. If it had not been rescinded that day, then the the states would challenge the government in court. So the attorney Jeff Sessions, you know, Trump had said throughout the campaign that he wanted to end DACA. Jeff Sessions also believed he could not defend it. The decision was to end it and to toss it to Congress. MS: Tony, there is a lawsuit on the other side to show you how intense this is. TP: Yes. There is a court case in New York and someone who is a dreamer and feels he was mistreated by the rules and that is going through with that Mexican American legal defense fund and the ACLU is close by. It is worth saying that DACA has never been to court both sides will tell you, so we do not know. President Obama went to expand DACA to not just be the dreamers children but the parents who have children who are legal American residents that is to say they may have come here and the parents, they have been undock in a but they have children. Obama tried to expand the program to include them. Texas sued. The Texas Jets issued a statement. It was upheld by a judge in New Orleans. Then, of course, the Supreme Court in 2015 was split 4-4. No decision there. we have not had a decision on whether DACA is legal or whether it was an overreach, whether President Obama overreached and did not comply with the administrative procedures. The president has enormous power, it is not unlimited. You have to go through certain hoops if you will come and we will find out as this litigation hits the courts and whether President Obama did so. CJ: It is clear that DACA would not have survived the leading party in this case and that was Texas. The Attorney General has a lot on his plate. He faces serious felony charges related to security fraud in Texas is going to have its hands full with the aftermath of hurricane Harvey. It is not clear that Texas would have a lot of time to pursue this. MS: We talked about this early on, the requisites and how the program was set up if they looked at the dreamers, this group of 800,000 people, who are they? They are educated and they are getting good paying jobs, etc.. KM: Right. There has been several studies by a local professor out of UC San Diego. They found that there is a significant increase in wages for dreamers who participate in the DACA program. They are likely to buy their first car or a first home and moved to jobs that are more in line with what they went to school for. So that side of the argument says, you know, those are positive contributions so they are able to contribute more fully once they have DACA. KM: One of the criteria that Jeff Sessions announced this week is they are draining and taking away American jobs. That seems to be a false statement because it is not one for one that someone gets a job for a teacher and someone else does not get the job as a teacher. AC: There was a study recently that estimates that eliminating DACA will cost the economy $200 billion per year. They have got good paying jobs, real jobs. They pay taxes. If you take DACA away, they are not paying taxes and they are paid under the table and they live in the shadows again. It was these counter arguments. First they say immigrants are a drain and they are on welfare but under docket, you cannot apply for welfare. And now they are taking jobs away. Which is it? They are trying to be productive and live the American dream. TP: The Pentagon says that they estimate 900 DACA eligible people have enlisted and served quite honorably in Iraq and Afghanistan. You have that also. Now, we are not sure. Some people are in the process of enlisting or going through training and what happens to them? KM: I would add to that that all of the recipient that we spoke with this week took offense to a lot of those statements that Sessions made when he announced it. They felt he was very inaccurately describing them when I talk to them. One woman talked about how he kept referring to public if it's and Social Security. You know, I pay -- even before DACA, she said she paid taxes into Social Security for 15 years. I never expected to get one dollar back for that and that was interesting. MS: That is a beautiful segue into the next segment. Despite the challenge to end DACA, as you said, interviewed students this week. Tell us who they are and how they are organizing to fight back from the grassroots level. KM: It is an overwhelming sense that I got from all of the DACA recipients, they are going to push back on this. They are not going to go quietly. They are going to protest and organize. They will get everyone they possibly can to lobby Congress to do something about this. They are speaking out. People, before, they were hesitant to share their stories about what they have done in the Mac lies. They are coming forward in a say I know I need to share my story. We will continue to hear from them. TP: It does seem as if there is a shift in public opinion. They referenced polls on Friday, 58% of the public says that the dreamers should stay and have a path to citizenship. 15% say stay but no path. In a small percentage in said boot them out. 56% is against the wall. This is a flip from that campaign and they suggest that people want the wall. Nationwide, the polls, as we learned in the election, are not worth a lot because that is not how we do things but the American public is shifting how they feel about these things and maybe as they read these compelling stories but we are talking about the response in San Diego. MS: We will talk about the student segments. AC: We covered a rally and it was not an angry response. It was not torches and pitchforks. It was very positive. It was about telling stories about who the dreamers are and they are real people. I happen to have been born here. My parents were born here. They have no other country of origin. They are compelled to give their stories. They got a job. TP: This is where we should encourage them expect this is what he refers to as executive amnesty. Amnesty that was not adopted by Congress and the United States. AC: You have no path to citizenship. It was a temporary stop on deportation. TP: You will not sell that. That is the argument in court. Is it and overstep? Did Obama create amnesty that he could not get through Congress ? AC: He says it is unconstitutional and we will send it back to Congress. They have not been able to do it. TP: He came out with a tweet and set if they do not act, I will revisit. AC: It is unconstitutional and it was an overreach by Obama than what can he do later ? [ OVERLAPPING SPEAKERS ] MS: We will get deeper into the politics and getting back to the response. You came out locally. KM: Yes. 51% of people from San Diego said that DACA is good for America. 52% disagreed with ending the program. 63% agreed that Congress should do something about it. It did look different when you break it down by political party. I guess you can guess easily what the party lines looked like. MS: Overall, the majority. [ OVERLAPPING SPEAKERS ] CJ: Public officials were completely unanimous in support of the DACA program and the criticism of the impact on the kids, many are adults, but they came here as kids. Even the congressman, they did not -- they said DACA was overreach that Congress needs to fix it. They hedged a bit. Darrell ice, he said, we have to find a way to make this work. AC: We are in San Diego. Southern California, a lot of DACA people or DACA eligible people. CJ: 38,000. AC: A lot of people are out there and constituency, most of the United States Congress, they know. We may sense a groundswell of support to the program because of the disastrous effect it could have on these fine young people, that feeling may not be in a lot of states they have congressman from CJ: Iowa, and Kansas is a case in point where Chris, who is the head of Trump. MS: There are 5 million illegal boat there. CJ: He said the proper thing to do was deport them and their parents and for the record, his grandparents were from Germany and Norway. It is interesting how after he had been here for a few generations as most of us have-- AC: You draw up the drawbridge. MS: I want to get back to some of the leaders in the schools and they are supporting students locally. KM: Yes. I have seen statements come out from different school systems both in terms of the campuses, they are addressing this and they say they are in in support of the dreamers and students themselves also in the last several years, there has been a rise of student organizations on the different campuses that are specifically for, you know, giving dreamers a safe space to be friends with each other and talk about their stories or for them and friends and allies who may not be dreamers, but support. MS: The faculty and some of the schools and the leadership, the business leader, Chris, he came on and they are friends with the policy. CJ: The large business organizations, have been very much pro-DACA. The business community is concerned because 90% of the DACA recipients are working. If you take 700 and and some thousand, if you take that out of the economy, that has an impact. The business community is worried about filling the gap that is created. Fundamentally, they looked at the aging American population and he said, where is that pool of workers going to come from? It is going to come from immigrants in general and docket dreamers in particular. There is that concern. You know, when you look at the case, the basis is anti-business, anti-big business like Silicon Valley. TP: Including me and you. [ OVERLAPPING SPEAKERS ] AC: Be look what is happening in other developed nations where the population is shrinking because of low birth rates, I have four kids. I am doing my part but there are competitive companies that are starting to lose the economic strength. The United States does also. It is the population of immigrants that is training a younger publish them. MS: They support Social Security. AC: They grow the economy. Now, you want to limit immigration and you want to deport millions of people and we start with the most productive of that group. TP: 7% of the population, which is 12 million, what do you think ? I know he referred to what he to he seems to be playing all sides. Does he broadness out to Congress ? That is the deal of the situation. We have that happen. TP: That is why nothing is done with Congress. They tried to do small things that are logical and now 56% of the population supports it and they tried to get other things that they cannot get done. MS: You have come up with this. Let's move to politics. Donald Trump's journey to the White House, there were many issues, he seems to fulfill a campaign promise by any DACA. He urges Congress to fix the problem and he wants Congress to address immigration reform in a way that puts citizens first. He also tweeted that he will revisit this decision if Congress does not. He is like a kid learning to ice skate all over the place. How do you sum up his position? CJ: I think he wanted to placate his base or Peggy Noonan calls the shrinking core. He also did not want to appear too cruel to the dreamers. The result is a mismatch. I think there is a logic behind this. Look at Trump, the man. He is the son of an immigrant mother. Two of his wives were immigrants. He probably does have some firsthand knowledge about the challenges an immigrant faces in America. You can see that in his off-the-cuff messages to dreamers, do not be worried. These are good kids and he says if Congress did not solve it, he would come in. He is trying to placate the base while having empathy for the dreamers. I hope that Congress, particularly the Democrats allied with Republicans, they make this a permanent fix. [ Indiscernible low volume ] TP: This was the head of the Department of Homeland security. He was asked, are you thirsting to go after these people if DACA is ended? He came about as close as he could to saying no. He said, it is not a high priority and less they have a criminal record. The logic of it is and it seems to be that while they are very unsure of the future, I do not see buses going down two places filling up with people going directly. KM: If you look at the people who have been targeted, yes, there are people who are picked up by immigration enforcement and put into pursuit -- proceedings and they have criminal backgrounds but there is also people who just have prior removal orders, people who say they came here and asked for asylum and they were denied and they are given a removal order. If a child came with the parents and that happened to them, the child has DACA. In that sense, those people might be a priority because of the removal order. TP: Is in it hard to create a national policy with antidotal stories? If you have 800,000 people, you have compelling stories. Is that a way to make a national policy? AC: What is missing is for the president to say, we will end this program in six months and kick it back to Congress without leadership. MS: Where is your blueprint quick AC: You want to handle DACA is in dreamers, he just punches it back. MS: And if you screwed up, it is on you. AC: He wants to win on all sides. He says I did not ended and they cannot fix it and it is not my fault. He has to take leadership. He ran for president and he is the boss. TP: He wants the wall. And they say you want this? How about my wall. [ OVERLAPPING SPEAKERS ] CJ: There is a compromise there around adding elements to the wall and solving the dreamer situation. The other thing that is looming when you look at deportation is the cost of it. There was an estimate this morning by the Brookings Institute that cost $12,500 to deport one person. If you deported all 800,000 dreamers, that is roughly $10 billion and that is twice the annual budget for I.C.E.. Whether or not we are a compassionate country, we have to worry about the budget. MS: The wall is interesting because as you say, they brought up the issue that they are reinstating the DACA and the simplistic view but they have a couple of hundred alien in emergency funds with Harvey and now Irma. Republicans in southeastern states do not want the wall. It is a nonstarter for some of them. TP: Even in Texas. We wrote that last week. All of this talk is about succession from the country, for Texas. As soon as there is a disaster, they asked for federal money. I think the wall that they want in Texas is a flood wall and not a border wall. CJ: They could create a portion of the wall. You could add a few segments in San Diego and Texas and maybe Arizona and say we solved the problem. MS: We closed the holes in the gaps in the wall and then you deal with drones and live cameras. CJ: Even Trump said it is impractical to have a wall across the entire border. AC: Something face-saving. It is a little bit of Savior face. Say I did what I could. MS: It is business as it should work ? KM: I think that dreamers will take a strong issue with that. They have made it clear that they are not willing to be a bargaining chip and they are not willing to accept detection at the extent of others that they care about. I think that will be a bigger discussion. Interesting. MS: We have a short time but what about this political issue with the clock ticking. Doesn't get extended? What happens? There are some that cannot apply. The ball is rolling. AC: I cannot imagine Congress can do anything in six months. I cannot imagine. There has to be an extension and that is what Trump alluded to. I will revisit it but we have to continue to expand this and extend it until there is a solution. MS: It is the middle of an election year. AC: I do not know how important this issue is when you get to a lot of places. Maybe it is less important than we think. Is a great issue for a presidential candidate but you are right. The idea if they can get this done, particularly if they talk about expanding this, let's talk about other things. I think Congress will be frozen in place. MS: We have about run out of time but we will revisit this issue as we move forward. It will not go anywhere between now and the end of the year and the deadline will be upon us soon. That wraps up a week of stories of KPBS Roundtable. I would like to thank Chris Jennewein , Tony Perry , Kate Morrissey , and Art Castanares . Thank you for being here. All the stories we discussed today are available on www.kpbs.org. I am Mark Saur. You for joining us today on KPBS Roundtable .
DACA IS ENDING. WHAT'S NEXT?
The future of close to 800,000 young immigrants was thrown into chaos this week after the Trump administration announced rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. More than 230,000 immigrants in California qualify for DACA.
There's been a strong response in San Diego and across the country to the decision. So far 15 states have filed lawsuits to block the president's action. Many local political and education leaders vowed to protect the immigrants.
But the president himself seems almost unsure of the way forward, tweeting on the same day that he expects Congress to address immigration reform in a way that puts citizens first, and that he will revisit his decision on DACA, if Congress does not.
-What does the future look like for the nation's 800,000 DACA recipients?
-Conservative states vowed to sue if DACA continued. Other states are now suing to block its dismantling. What are the legal issues driving the future of DACA?
-Trump seems to side with Democrats "Chuck (Schumer) and Nancy (Pelosi)" on getting a new deal on DACA: What is that about? And does it signal a willingness to work with Democrats in the future?