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Asylum Protections, City Attorney Race, DHS Surveillance

 July 15, 2019 at 11:05 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 The situation for asylum seekers at the u s Mexico border may change. Fundamentally as soon as tomorrow. The Trump administration is putting a new rule into effect for bidding most asylum seekers to make their claim in the u s if they've already passed through a designated safe contrary, the move is aimed at the increasing number of asylum seekers from Central America waiting for entry at the US Mexico border. The new rule is set to go into effect tomorrow and will likely face a swift legal challenge. There are presently about 9,000 people waiting in Tijuana to claim asylum in the u s and joining me is KPBS reporter Max Rivlin, Nadler and Max. Welcome. Hi. So your reporting from, from the border into wanna, what can you tell us about the reaction to this new Trump administration rule? Speaker 2: 00:49 So the react, and I spoke with a couple of asylum seekers here this morning. Uh, it's been one of, you know, basically miscommunication. No one has told them what's going on. I, you know, mentioned it to a bunch of people that this was the, uh, interim final rule that was being proposed by the Trump administration to go into effect tomorrow. And like most of the u s asylum system, this was totally, you know, indecipherable to them because they have so many other things to be caring about and basically they're caring about day to day survival into Quanta. So just another regulatory, um, kind of rule coming down is not gonna make that much of an impact. And nobody had really kind of explained to everybody waiting this morning that this could fundamentally change their status. Speaker 1: 01:33 There've been a lines of people waiting to hear their names called for asylum interviews. They've been waiting into one a four months. Is that process still going on today? Speaker 2: 01:42 So the book is still being kept. The numbers should be still being called. But today, like many days over the past month, no numbers were called and nobody was led in at the u s port of entry. This is according to asylum seekers I spoke with just a few minutes ago. So what you're seeing is basically, even before this new law, this new rule came down or was announced, was a stopping of the u s asylum system at the port of entry. Speaker 1: 02:09 So indeed, this new rule for bidding access to the U S is supposed to apply to people who have been waiting and have had their names in this so-called metering book. Speaker 2: 02:20 Yeah, absolutely. I spoke with a gentleman a few minutes ago. His name is Tony. He's from Cameroon and he had been waiting for two months. His name has been in the book. Uh, but under the new rule, if it were to stand and not be immediately struck down by the courts, which many people think it will be, um, you would not be allowed to claim asylum in the u s so he hears him talking about the difficulties that he faces and also the challenges of, of going and getting status in a third country, which is what the new law is asking for. Speaker 3: 02:50 They don't view predicted here from the police when ever the idea bus gets expired. The, can we offer anything? When did I have such a security? No. But I did. And the other thing is the language barrier. Yes, Spanish, we speak English, we speak French and other digit so we can function here. Speaker 1: 03:12 So apparently this, um, this asylum seeker from Cameroon does not necessarily feel safe in um, Mexico. Central American migrants have a core of course traveled through Mexico to get to the u s border. Does Mexico qualify as the legally defined safe country? The Trump administration is talking about? Speaker 2: 03:34 Well, Mexico has never signed a safe third country agreement with the United States. Whether, um, asylum seekers feel safe here is going to be up to the asylum system itself. And these are immigration judges. Um, this is already playing out during a process. We know as the migrant protection protocols where migrants are being sent back to Mexico to wait out their asylum claims as they're processed in the u s this was the controversial program that was instituted a few months ago before this new rule came down. A lot of those people being sent back to Mexico have expressed deep fear of returning to the country. They say Central Americans are discriminated against. They don't really have status, they have trouble finding work. Uh, they were looked down upon by Mexicans and are huge targets for crimes, robbery, human trafficking, um, things, things of that nature. Speaker 1: 04:26 What's been the reaction from migrant advocates to this new asylum policy? Speaker 2: 04:31 Um, a lot of them are, we're in surprised this has been in the office for a few months. It's been reported on by a couple of different outlets when it was kind of first surfaced a few months ago. Um, but, you know, basic outrage, um, and a belief that this is frankly incompatible with our current law regarding asylum. And we'll be struck down by the courts. Of course, as we know, something being struck down by a court doesn't mean that a little ultimately be ruled illegal. Right. The Muslim ban eventually prevailed in the supreme court. Um, the migrant protection protocols, which a lot of people said on its face was illegal, was originally struck down by a federal judge. But then, um, that was upheld briefly for, for hearings, which have now stretched on for a month by the, not by the ninth circuit. So it's, you know, listen, yeah, this might be struck down, but it might be something that we ended up living with for quite some time. Speaker 1: 05:24 Is there a legal challenge to this in the works that you know of? Speaker 2: 05:27 Absolutely. I believe the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as several other NGOs have been working on this since it was first announced. It should be coming either once it goes into effect or within the next couple of hours. Here's the ACLU lawyer league alert, talking earlier to the California report about the prospect of a challenge. Speaker 4: 05:48 This is another attempt to ban asylum. The previous attempt to borrow silent for anyone who entered between ports of entry was struck down under the immigration nationality act that Congress passed. And this one we believe will also be struck down under the Immigration and Nationality Act. It's completely incompatible with Congress's decision to provide protection for those seeking asylum, regardless of which country they transcended through. Speaker 1: 06:22 Okay. Then we will continue to follow this ongoing and developing story. I've been speaking with KPBS reporter Max Rivlin Nadler at the border in Tijuana. Max. Thank you. Thank you. Speaker 5: 06:37 Uh. Speaker 1: 00:00 Governor Gavin Newsome signed new legislation that creates a $21 billion fund that power companies can use to pay for wildfire damage their equipment may cause, but where will the money come from to support this fund? Half of it comes from the utility companies and the other half from rate payers. The governor also hired a new utilities commission president. All of its signaling, a shift in how the state handles wildfire liability. Rob [inaudible] energy reporter from the San Diego Union Tribune has been covering the story and joins us with more. Rob, welcome. Thank you. How significant is the new law when it comes to how the state and utilities respond to the ongoing threat of wildfires? This is a pretty significant piece of legislation for a couple of reasons. First of all, as you mentioned, they've got big fun $21 billion that a utility companies can tap into. Also, it's not covered quite as much. Speaker 1: 00:55 Not hasn't been. It hasn't been covered quite as much, but the utilities also have an option to, uh, to draw 10 point $5 billion as a line of credit if their insurance doesn't cover the costs of a, of a utility related wildfire. Uh, but they, they, they have either option to choose either the $21 billion fund or the 10 point $5 billion line of credit and most people think they're going to opt for the $21 billion fund. Cause I was gonna ask, is $21 billion enough PG and e filed for bankruptcy citing 30 billion in damages? That's a very good question. And that's something that even the sponsors of the legislation have admitted that that's an unknown. The thinking behind or part of the thinking behind this legislation is that by enhancing fire wildfire mitigation measures from the utility companies that maybe we won't have as many devastating fires in California if the utilities step up their game, so to speak, especially civic gas and electric, which, uh, w w has been tied to the campfire, which was the most devastating fire. Speaker 1: 02:01 And that occurred last year. Talk to me more about where the money will come from. 10.5 billion of the, of the 21 billion, half of it will come from the utilities themselves. The other 10.5 billion will come from rate payers who, what what they've done in the legislation is there was a bond that was going to be about the set to expire, that utility customers have been paying for a long time, number of years, um, of $2 and 50 cents per month. And that was going to expire. But now with this passage passage of assembly bill 10 54, they're going to extend that. That's where the 10 point $5 billion from ratepayers is going to come from them. So rate payers won't notice a difference on their bill, right? Yeah. And you never know. I mean, this, this legislation is aimed for what's gonna come next, what's, it doesn't really address the previous wildfires. Part of that was addressed last year by assembly bill nine oh one which addressed wildfires from 2017. So going forward, the thought is that this bill will help alleviate utility rate payer heartburn in the future. Speaker 2: 03:12 But another thinking on this, a, you know, critics may say this legislation passes wildfire liability onto rate payers rather than the actual utility companies. Um, why should rate payers pay for wildfire liability? So the utilities don't go bankrupt? Speaker 1: 03:27 Well, the argument is, and it has some merit, is that rate payers and also utilities are kind of intertwined. You know, you really can't separate one from the other. And in addition to that, we've had so many devastating wildfires in the last couple of years. There's a third party that's involved in this intertwined, so to speak, and that's the victims of wildfires. And if you're a victim of a wildfire from PG knee service territory like the campfire last year, you haven't gotten any kind of financial relief because PG and e declared bankruptcy. Part of what the supporters of this bill say is, what's very important about this bill is that PGNE cannot take part in this $21 billion fund until they settle their bankruptcy filing by June of next year. So the thought is that a big part of this legislation will help get money into the hands of wildfire victims in an accelerated rate. Speaker 2: 04:24 And can you talk about some of the other requirements these utilities will have to go through in order to access those funds? Speaker 1: 04:29 Well, one of the most significant is that Oh, utility executive pay and compensation will be tied to their wildfire mitigation efforts. So it's all, this is from the proponent standpoint, this legislation, even though it's big and it's complicated as a mixture of carrots and six so to speak. So utilities can be more responsible and that utility and rate payers who are already on the hook and pain a lot of money, we'll be paying less of our, or at least have shoulder less of a burden than they have in the last couple of years. Speaker 2: 05:02 The governor just introduced this proposal last month. Why was there such a rush to get this done? Speaker 1: 05:07 Well, and it did. It went through in at warp speed. The bill in its expanded version was introduced last Monday. By Thursday, it had passed both houses of the legislature and on Friday morning the governor signed it. So when we went through very quickly now the governor and proponents of the bill say, well yes, it didn't go through very quickly, uh, this specific bill, but the state and law makers had been talking about wild fire legislation for literally years. This goes back to the previous governor, Jerry Brown and governor Noosa Medis news conference on Friday, said wildfire has been at the forefront of law makers minds for going on for a couple of years now at least. Speaker 2: 05:54 And you know, there have also been some personnel changes at the California Public Utilities Commission. Tell us about the new president and what the change means for the CPEC. Speaker 1: 06:01 Yes. On Friday the governor announced that he's going to nominate Mary Bell Baxter, who right now is the secretary of government operations. Uh, that's an agency that administers state operations for things like procurement, real estate information technology and human resources. She's got a lot of governmental experience. Uh, and she will be nominated. She has to be confirmed by the state Senate, but that's considered to be pretty much a done deal. Speaker 2: 06:26 All right. I've been speaking with rob, Nick Galeski, energy reporter at the San Diego Union Tribune. Rob, thanks so much for joining us. Thank you. Speaker 3: 06:37 [inaudible] wow. [inaudible]. Speaker 1: 00:00 San Diego city of turning Mara Elliott is campaigning to keep her job. She has endorsements from a number of high profile elected officials, but she's also combating criticism from opponent Corey Briggs in a KPBS interview last week. He says the city attorney's office has become politicized. Elliott responded to that criticism in an interview with KPBS evening edition host, Ebony Monet. Speaker 2: 00:26 So city attorney Mara Elliott. Welcome. Thank you. Good to be here. Thanks for joining us. So since being elected in 2016 what would you say are some of the highlights of your time in office? Well, it's been two and a half years, and I think when the voters elected me, they gave me a mandate and they expected me to protect San Diego. So I've put all of our resources in doing that, whether it's protecting people from gun violence or domestic violence or sex trafficking. So we've, we've covered a lot of ground in two and a half years. In 2016 when you first ran for city attorney, you ran on a platform of transparency. You even talked about your desire to create a database that could be accessed by the public where people could access police body camera footage. Where do you stand on that now? I think it's extremely important for government to be as open as possible and as transparent as possible with the public. Speaker 2: 01:18 And I still strongly believe that we need to do that. So I've advocated to have a person who is responsible under SB for 1421 to be able to produce, um, police records when requested. I am in the community as much as possible, whether it's at forums or going to city council meetings every Tuesday so that I can answer directly to the public. We have brought policies before the public that have never been publicly discussed so that they can understand how the city is doing business. It's extremely important for us to be out there explaining what our work is telling the public about how they can use the city attorney's office to keep them safe. So you are San Diego's first woman, the city attorney. What does that mean for you? It means a lot to me because the city has been in existence forever. And we've always had men leading the legal office, the largest municipal law firm in San Diego County. Speaker 2: 02:12 And it was time for a woman to step up. We see things differently. The way I address issues is very much I'm looking out for to protect San Diego. I'm a mother. So I think that that has driven a lot of my agenda, whether it's protecting children from abuses or victims of domestic violence and trafficking. Today we have a Safe Storage of firearms ordinance we're bringing to the city council. We have a concern about, um, firearms that are in the home that are not secured because we have seen that children are very curious by nature and they will access a firearm if it's not locked up. And we want to make sure that kids are kept safe. So a lot of the decisions I've made come from being a woman, a woman of color, a mother who is raising her children and really understands what San Diegans need so that they feel invested in their community and they feel protected. Speaker 2: 03:02 Whether it's protecting our finances or protecting our public safety. And I bring to the table over 20 years of municipal law experience. I know what I'm doing. I know that office inside and out and I have the trust of the attorneys that I lead. So if we can, um, talk about some of the decisions you've made while in office. For instance, regarding the Mission Valley Stadium Site, you filed a lawsuit to keep the competing ballot measures off the ballot regarding the Mission Valley Stadium site. Um, what do you say to critics including um, San Diego attorney, Corey Briggs, who is also running for the city attorney's office who say that your recommendations about the Mission Valley Stadium site and the lawsuit were politically motivated and cost the city a lot of money? Well, I think anytime you make difficult decisions and that was a difficult decision, you're going to get an accusation that it was political. I think that the voters, when they elected me back in 2016 had very, they had five diverse choices to make and I was very honest about who I was and how I was going to stand up for the taxpayer. Speaker 2: 04:05 Regardless. This is an important property in San Diego. It's one of our largest properties and it's owned by the taxpayers, so it's concerning when a developer puts an initiative before the voters and it's been negotiated behind closed doors, it hasn't been subject to a competitive bidding process and I wanted to make sure that San Diego was getting the best deal possible and that this was something that was legal and the voters want me to ask those questions. They want me to defend their rights to their property. We did the right thing. I have no second guessing of having done that because that's exactly what San Diego expected us to do. And what about the argument that the voters had already spoken by signing the petition and the signatures were verified and therefore qualified for the ballot in the first place? I've heard that argument before, but I think we can all relate to going to target and somebody gives you a two second blip of what they're asking you to sign and the devil is always in the details. Speaker 2: 05:07 So I think when you sign something like that and you're agreeing, yes, let's put it before the voters even not doing it because you're buying into the legality or all the details that go with the measure. You're expecting that whatever is going to be placed before you as something you can rely on. And our city clerk places this on the ballot. So it's our job to take a look at the initiative and decide is this legal? And then we also have to look at it and say, is this a good deal for San Diego? That's my job. I can't say, well the voters wanted it, so my work is done. I need to go back in there and look at the details so that we can advise the city council and the public as to what that initiative says. And that's the job we did. Why are you the best person to continue in this job? Speaker 2: 05:50 Because I've been doing this job for two and a half years and I built up to my moment as city attorney for many years before as attorney for the transit authority here in San Diego and attorney for the county of San Diego and also an attorney for a k through 12 schools throughout the state of California. This is what I do. I am very passionate about public service. I feel at the end of the day that the work that I have done has made San Diego a better place. We have a lot of momentum, but that said, there's still so much to do, especially when it comes to some of our more difficult border related issues, whether it's sex trafficking or the increases that we're seeing in domestic violence or hate crimes. I hear this, I hear this from the public. I want to be responsive and I want to continue to deliver and protect them until I'm done as city attorney, San Diego city attorney Mara Elliot. Thank you so much. Thank you. And she was speaking to KPBS evening edition. Anchor. Ebony Monet. Speaker 3: 06:48 Ooh. Speaker 1: 00:00 Earlier this year and NBC San Diego Investigation uncovered a secret government database of activists, lawyers, and journalists working across the US. Mexico border and screenshots of the internal database were provided to NBC seven by a Homeland Security source. Individuals on the list include journalists and attorney and dozens of others labeled by the u s government as an organizer or instigator. Now a former La Mesa pastor has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security accusing DHS of targeting her as part of that program and violating her first amendment rights. Reverend Kazi Dosha, who now leads a church in New York joins us now. Reverend Dosha, welcome. Speaker 2: 00:43 Thank you so much for having me. Speaker 1: 00:45 How did you learn your name was included in the database and what was your reaction? Speaker 2: 00:50 Well on January 2nd of this year, I crossed the border in a way that I had for so many times as a pastor in San Diego, but something was different this time because I was detained and interrogated to try to come back into my own country for several hours. And so that sort of raised the flag for me for when I saw the initial report from NBC that there was a list of people who they listed as activists and advocates and lawyers and humanitarian workers who were on this secret government surveillance list. And I said, hmm, some of the things that happened to them sound like what happened to me. And then somebody who was on the list encouraged me to reach out to Tom Jones at NBC. And within just minutes he sent me back this photo, my passport photo with a yellow cross hairs across my face, the ex saying that my century had been revoked and that the flag was placed on my passport and so forth. And as soon as I saw it, I just burst into tears. Speaker 1: 01:58 What kinds of questions were you asked? Speaker 2: 02:00 Well, first there were simple questions, which seems to reveal that they were well aware of who I was. Who was I meeting with? Why would they know I was meeting with someone in Tijuana? What kinds of organizations, where did I go? What kind of work do I do? They asked me things like, are you coaching people to come across the border illegally? Why would you do that? And of course I, which was just shocking to me because why would my government thing that I'm coaching someone to do anything illegal because I don't do anything illegal. I, all I do is pray with people and help them. Speaker 1: 02:38 So was there ever a breakthrough moment in this conversation and are in their line of questioning? Speaker 2: 02:44 Several, because I'm a Christian and I'm not just called to serve the migrants, I'm also called the serve the agents. These agents have a lot of latitude and a lot of power and they can move beyond just following orders. And so while I was talking to them in this interrogation, and while that was wrong to have to go through and something that I contend shouldn't have happened, I really did see it as an opportunity if it had to happen for me to show them some compassion and perhaps encouraged them to make different choices in their future. Speaker 1: 03:18 Did they ever say why you were on this list? Speaker 2: 03:22 I asked several times that they wouldn't answer. Speaker 1: 03:25 We reached out to DHS and they're not commenting on your lawsuit, but in response to NBC seven's initial report, customs and Border Protection officials said that gathering intelligence and investigating criminal activity as part of their job. What do you make of that explanation? Speaker 2: 03:41 I believe that is part of their job, but the question is why would you claim that there's criminal activity from a pastor who is not who they know very well is not doing any criminal activities. And ice officer said to me, we know what you do. We know your network. We know your network better than you do actually who sent to me? So DHS is well aware that I'm not doing anything criminal. I believe that to be, I guess the lawyers have taught me this term pretextual a way of claiming something that isn't so much true to justify what they've done and that really is not okay. Speaker 1: 04:18 And Customs and border protection officials have also said they were interested in talking with people who were at the border when border agents clashed with migrants last year. Were you there when that happened? Speaker 2: 04:29 I was not there and uh, and I can definitely prove it. And if they had just done a basic search of my flights and everything, they would know that I was nowhere near either of the two that have been documented of the clashes. Speaker 1: 04:45 And tell us more about your work with migrants in Tijuana. Speaker 2: 04:49 Well, it's my great honor as a pastor to be able to minister to people and because I was a pastor in Lamesa and had relationships with people in the, in the neighborhood, honestly, you know, and let my sons 20 miles, my church was like 20 miles from the border. When things started to look complicated at the border, I realized that there might be something about the ministry we had in New York that we could offer in at the border during the, but me personally. What I did was to go down and pray with people. I officiated with several other clergy members for 17 weddings for people who were too poor to be able to afford a church blessed wedding in their home country. We prayed with people, we offered them anointed things we just gave them. We listened to their confessions and things that were really burdened on their hearts and then offered them the path to redemption of really was one of the holiest experiences of my life. Speaker 1: 05:49 And what are you seeking through your lawsuit? Speaker 2: 05:51 I just need to go back to understanding that I have the freedom of any other US citizens to cross the border, to have access to return to my country as needed and to not be impeded from offering my ministry to people either here in the u s in New York City in San Diego or in Tijuana. I've been speaking with Reverend Kazi [inaudible]. Reverend Dosha, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you so much for having me. Speaker 3: 06:22 [inaudible]. Speaker 1: 00:00 The farewell was a hit at the Sundance film festival earlier this year. It's director Lulu Wong stopped by the KPBS studios to speak with arts reporter Beth Armando about making a film inspired by her own life. Speaker 2: 00:13 Lulu, your film is advertised on. The poster is based on a lie, so explain what that means. It was my way, I guess to say this is based on a true story, but even the true story itself is about a lie that was told to my actual grandmother and what was that lie? The lie was that we were all coming home to China for the wedding of my cousin, but in fact the wedding was staged by my family as an excuse to see my grandmother and say goodbye to her because she had cancer and the doctor told her she had three months to live, but they decided not to tell her that she was ill. So that's why the wedding was necessary. So she wouldn't be suspicious when everybody suddenly rushed home to see her. And I understand the roots for this film came from a, this American life episode. Speaker 2: 01:05 How did that come about? As a filmmaker, I initially wanted to make this as a film, always have wanted to make it as a film, but found it really difficult to find the right partners who would support the vision of the film that I had. And there was a lot of um, producers who liked the concept initially, but want it to make it a much broader film and it's not the film that I wanted to make. So I set it aside because I thought if I can't tell the story the way I want to tell it, then I'd rather not do it at all. But I had the urge to tell the story. So I wrote it down as a short story and I met a producer from this American life and pitched him that story and it got picked up and you know, we, between writing it and recording it, it took about two months. Speaker 2: 01:51 And as soon as it aired, within 48 hours, producers were calling me to make it into a film. And what that did was it gave me the ability to pick the producer who would ultimately fight for my vision. And my version of the story. And what was it about the story that was most important to you in terms of what you wanted to convey? I wanted to convey that it's not a story where there's a right or wrong, it's not a story about plot, it's a story about what it feels like as a family when you were separated by an ocean and you start to change based on the country where you move to, you start to have different value systems and then what it means when you go back to your home country and you see the differences between you and that family that you left and you still love them, but you see the world in very different ways. Speaker 2: 02:48 And so I didn't want to tell a story where it was all about the wedding and the banquet and uh, the broad comedy of that or even, you know, it's a very high story and a lot of hilarity ensues. But it was very important to me to portray a specific type of humor and not a kind of humor where you're making fun of people or laughing at the family, but were you really are sympathetic to what they're going through. The character that Aquafina plays is kind of an alter ego for you, I suppose you could say that. Yeah. And so were you born in China and then grew up mostly in the United States? I was, yeah. And one of the scenes that I thought was really effective was when Aquafina's character confronts her uncle, I believe about keeping the secret. And he points out kind of the cultural differences. Speaker 2: 03:40 And can you talk a little bit about those kinds of cultural differences that you wanted to highlight? Yeah, I think there's a fundamental difference between eastern and Western culture. I think that in America we, we very much value the individual freedom truth, which all surround the values of foreign individual. But in China, I won't speak for everybody else, but in China it's very much about the collective. It's about family, it's about society. And there's this notion of the things that we do to carry someone's burden for them, that it isn't up to them to decide how do I deal with this? And I must know so I can choose how to do it, but there's just a collective vision and that's what's so beautiful, but it also comes with its own challenges and pressures. The farewell opens Friday and Select San Diego theaters. Listen to the full interview on Beth's Cinema Junkie podcast. Speaker 3: 04:36 [inaudible].

President Trump is ending asylum protection for Central American asylum-seekers. Also, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill to help future wildfire victims pay for damage, San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott is campaigning for reelection, a former La Mesa Pastor is suing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security over its border surveillance program. And director Lulu Wang’s says her film “The Farewell” is based on an actual lie.