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Newsom Says El Salvador Trip A Counter To Trump

 April 8, 2019 at 10:35 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen Cavenaugh. California's governor took a step on the international stage this weekend by leading an official trip to El Salvador. Governor Newsome is meeting with the country's leaders, civil and human rights officials, the u s ambassador to El Salvador and Salvadoran citizens whose family members have migrated to the u s California is home to the nation's largest population of Salvadorans. The governor's trip is being seen in contrast to president Trump's recent move to cut us funding to Central America. Joining me is Ben Christopher in northern California. He's part of a reporting team with cow matters who's covering the governor's trip to El Salvador. And he joins us now by Skype. And Ben, welcome to the program. Thanks for having me. As you point out in your story, leading up to Newsome's visit, the governor's trip marks a number of firsts, can you tell us what those never before elements are of this trip? Speaker 2: 00:59 Well, sure. So first off, this is a governor Newsome's first trip abroad. It's common that California governors will go abroad at some point in the course of their administration. But Gavin Newsome is, uh, going early, um, and he is going to El Salvador. This will be the first time that a governor of California has gone to the, it's just Central America, I believe, any country in Central America in his official capacity. And it's also the first time that a governor has gone abroad, um, justifying the trip, not just as a, a way to develop business connections between California and another country, which is sort of the, the way that these trips typically go. But he's talking about it. He's describing it as a fact finding mission, um, Eh, to learn more about a refugee crisis and kind of putting a, a diplomatic and a humanitarian lens on things. Speaker 1: 01:54 We do have a clip from governor Newsome explaining about why he decided to make the trip. Now, Speaker 3: 01:59 California disproportionately, uh, will, uh, bear the brunt of responsibility, opportunity, burden, depending on your perspective. And, uh, and I think that's something that needs to be understood and I'm not going to understand it listening or rather reading through my tweets every day. Speaker 1: 02:18 So that's governor Newsome explaining at least in part why he's making this trip to El Salvador. Central America is in the sights of president Trump right now. This visit is being seen as a highly charged political statement, isn't it, Ben? Speaker 2: 02:33 It is. I mean, I think there are maybe two ways to look at this trip. One is just to take the governor at its word and think about it in terms of, of, you know, this is a way for California lawmakers to, uh, to, to inform their policy making when it comes to issues of migration and immigration and, uh, you know, the, the broader diaspora of Central Americans living in California, which as you point out is quite large. But there's also the, you know, undeniably there was a big political dimension to this, particularly at a time where it, president Trump was just in California. He's talked about closing the Mexican American war, a United States border. He's just announced that he will be terminating aid to re Central American countries, including El Salvadore. And so this is a way for a governor Newsome to, to draw a line to draw a distinction between his policy and the policy of the state of California and the federal government as he has been doing in so many ways since becoming governor. And, and, and on the campaign trail before that. Speaker 1: 03:31 And you also write about how this visit is being received as almost a roar shack test of political opinion. Who supports this trip and where is the criticism coming from? Speaker 2: 03:42 As is the case with pretty much anything the governor does a, you, you have a diversity of opinions. The Democratic Leadership in Sacramento is broadly supportive of this idea. You also have a lot of support from the Salvadoran communities, including a assembly woman, Wendy Korea, who's actually down in, uh, San Salvador with to governor. She is the only Salvadoran immigrants in the legislature. And she actually came to this country herself when she was five years old. And so I think the governor is getting a lot of applause from that community. You know, this is, as you said, a large community within California. And, but of course there he's getting a lot of uh, credit, you know, criticism as well. Republicans in general in Sacramento are pretty ticked off about this. Uh, this trip. They kind of see it as cran standing is as a way of the governor weighing in on the policy area that really isn't his responsibility. His responsibility they say should be to the people of California and the California issues. There's no shortage of problems facing the state and um, they don't really like the idea of, of the governor going down to Central America to a SDAC and sort of, you know, pick a fight with the president. Speaker 1: 04:54 Well, aside from putting a spotlight on why people are leaving, what, if anything, can governor Newson do to change or influence us? Immigration? Yeah. Speaker 2: 05:03 Policy. It's a really good question and it's one that I am and my colleague Elizabeth, I Galera who's down in El Salvador are trying to figure out in the past a lot of these trips in which governors had gone abroad have been about developing economic ties between California. And a foreign country. And so certainly that might be part of the story here where they're trying, you know, the, the idea is to try and boost the economy of Central American. I think this is kind of part of a broader trend in recent California state policy led by Democrats where you've seen a policy makers in Sacramento kind of insert themselves into immigration policy, which is traditionally been seen as the purview of the federal government. Obviously there are restrictions on what they can do, but they are going up to that line. So you know, the last few years we've seen the introduction of sanctuary state law policy and earlier this year the state has provided funding to provide aid to asylum seekers. Just recently assembly member David Chiu from San Francisco wrote a bill that would establish the California immigrant and refugee affairs agency. And so you know, I think this, you can kind of think of it as a quasi diplomatic mission of the governors is maybe in keeping with that broader trend. I've been speaking with cal matters, political reporter Ben Christopher, Ben, thank you. Thanks for having me. And you are listening to KPBS midday edition.

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom visit comes as President Donald Trump moves to cut millions of dollars in U.S. aid to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala and demands those three nations and Mexico do more to stop migrants from entering the United States.