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New Trump Policy To Penalize Immigrants Needing Benefits, UC San Diego Forum On US-China Relations, Former ICE Chief Talks Workplace Raids

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The Trump Administration is moving forward with regulations that would deny green cards and visas to immigrants who use — or are expected to use — state or federal benefits like food stamps and Medicaid. On Monday, UC San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy began a week-long forum to address tensions between the U.S. and China. It’s attended by business, technology and policy leaders. Also, ICE raids in Mississippi last week have been described as record setting, with the arrest of 680 people. KPBS reporter Max Rivlin-Nadler spoke with the former acting head of ICE, John Sandweg about the incident.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 Immigrants in California who received medical or CalFresh benefits could soon find they are not eligible for green cards. The Trump administration just announced a broad expansion to the so-called public charge rule, which tries to screen out immigrants who rely on government for assistance. Only a small percentage of immigrants directly qualify for government programs. But the new rules announced today will also allow officials to determine if green card applicants will likely rely on public assistance in the future. The change makes it more likely that poor immigrants will be denied illegal working status in the u s joining me is Lillian Serrano. She's chair of the San Diego Immigrants Rights consortium. And Lillian, welcome to the program. Thank you for having me. What's your understanding of how this new expansion of the public charge rule will work and who will be affected?

Speaker 2: 00:55 Yeah, so, so as you mentioned, the, the new definition of public charter was recently released a few hours ago. We know that this, uh, this new change will definitely be affecting those who are more vulnerable, those who are in need of that extra hand to be able to go through tough times. Just like we all had at one point or another. Um, we have to remember that there's a reason why it is we as a country have a safety net. Right? And that is because we recognize that while we all work hard and while we are try our best to provide for ourselves and our families, there are times that are the, we all have difficulties doing that. And we had recognized that as a country, uh, we are able to provide that extra hand to those who need us the most at the Times that they need us the most. Do you have it

Speaker 1: 01:49 general sense of how many immigrants rely on public assistance programs?

Speaker 2: 01:53 It's hard to tell. It's hard to tell how many immigrants will be affected [inaudible] but because this is another attempt to create fear in the immigrant community, we know, and this is something that unfortunately we had been hearing for over a year now that even if people are not directly being impacted by the new definition of public chart, they are scare. And when people are scare people, um, makes, makes tough decisions,

Speaker 1: 02:23 mostly benefits that affect immigrant children are exempt from this consideration though, isn't that right?

Speaker 2: 02:29 Yes. Yes. So, uh, as of right now, this, this wouldn't necessarily affect uh, the parents of, of immigrant children's or even us born children who are receiving benefits and nobody should be have. But in that situation, no one should be put in a situation where they have to decide whether they bring food to their house or do they have a chance to be in this country legally or if they have a, a work permit where they can actually work legally and, and receive all the benefits? No, that shouldn't be a, a question that anyone needs to ask.

Speaker 1: 03:05 Now in San Diego, the county has reported that there's been a decrease in enrollment rates in public assistance programs like medical and cal fresh food program. Based on what you're hearing in the community, are immigrants already opting out of safety net programs they're eligible for because they're concerned about this immigration status and getting a green card?

Speaker 2: 03:28 Yes. That, that Ha. That is something that we have been seeing, like I said, for, for almost a year now since that announcement first came out that the administration was going to start actively working on changing the definition to public chart. We started seeing a lot of families and a lot of people just in general within the immigrant community, um, this enrolling in programs or even if they, they still have them, they, they stop using them. [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 03:54 now in announcing the new rule this morning, Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of the u s citizenship and Immigration Service says the purpose of the move is to ensure that immigrants do not become dependent on the government

Speaker 3: 04:08 through the public charge rule. President Trump's administration is reinforcing the ideals of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility, ensuring that immigrants are able to support themselves and become successful here in America.

Speaker 1: 04:24 How do you respond to lean to him and others who share that sentiment?

Speaker 2: 04:28 Yeah, I think this is, um, this is very conflicting. I think with the values that we have as a country. Like I was mentioning earlier, we are a country that, you know, we all work hard. We, we know that every American works hard every day to be able to do the best that they can, right? We are in a country that though we have a promise that doesn't matter in which, uh, how the conditions in which you were born, right? That that one day, if you work hard, you can make a great life. Yet, um, we all know that there are times where, where that's hard, right? We all, and if it's not us, someone in our family at one point had, had been or had been in a position where, where they just need an extra hand, right? It might be just a couple of weeks in my VF few months, right?

Speaker 2: 05:17 Where they just need that extra push, the ability to eat just one more day so they can continue searching for that job or continue going on pursuing their educational dreams, right? And what we're saying is that promise is for everyone but immigrants, right? That promise is for everyone. But those who who are coming in here seeking for that life, we're saying that somehow those of us who, who are here in this country, um, come first, right. And are the humanity or humanity and our values are, have a, have an end to it. And that ends when, when you are low income and you are an immigrant. I have been speaking with Lillian Serrano, she's chair of the San Diego Immigrants Rights consortium. And Lillian, thank you very much for your time. Thank you for having me.

Speaker 1: 00:00 The growing trade war between the U S and China continues to shake up the financial markets this weekend. International Investment Bank, Goldman Sachs announced that analysts no longer expect a trade deal between the u s and China before the 2020 presidential election this week. UC San Diego is welcoming a forum of diplomatic and economic leaders to discuss Chinese trade and economic development. It's described as four days of intense frank talk about the future of the u s China relationship. I spoke with one of the organizers of the forum research Professor Susan Shirk, chair of the 21st century China Center at UC San Diego. I began by asking if China's decision to devalue its currency would hurt the u s

Speaker 2: 00:48 um, well, of course it does make, uh, American products more expensive in China and makes Chinese products less expensive for us if we want to buy them. Uh, so it, uh, it does put China at an advantage to have a lower currency, but it's not really all that significant in and of itself. It's just a one more round. And this very acrimonious, I'd say tough bargaining and brinksmanship between the two countries.

Speaker 1: 01:28 What about China's announcement that it will halt purchases of u s agricultural products?

Speaker 2: 01:33 Hello. That is targeted at, uh, one of president Trump's, uh, most important support bases. So it's aimed at putting pressure on him to, uh, lift the tariffs and to negotiate a, an agreement.

Speaker 1: 01:56 Now, does the u s do you think have an advantage or since China is more of a centrally planned economy, does it have the advantage?

Speaker 2: 02:04 You know, I think we really should get beyond this. Uh, you win. I lose zero sum attitude because there are losers in both countries and the whole global economic system is being highly disrupted, uh, by this way of the two countries, um, dealing with their economic differences. Uh, it's going to slow down global growth, uh, across the board, not just in the two countries. And it's slowing down because technology is part of it. It's also slowing down human progress. Right.

Speaker 1: 02:49 What other subjects besides trade will you be discussing during this forum?

Speaker 2: 02:54 We'll certainly be talking about technology. We'll talk about five g a I and, uh, the restrictions that the United States is starting to place on visas for Chinese science students, including at UCFD, uh, on Chinese investment in high tech firms in the United States, as well as China's, uh, which is really a reaction to China's massive state led effort to turn itself into a high tech superpower.

Speaker 1: 03:32 Can you give us an idea of who's going to be at [inaudible]?

Speaker 2: 03:35 Attending the Chinese ambassador? Uh, sway 10 Chi is coming to the opening session to join the panel with Steve Hadley and Tom Donalyn who was president Obama's national security advisor. Uh, in addition to these folks, we have actually former governor Brown's coming to participate. He's very interested and the California China relationship in particular, Robert Work, who is the former deputy secretary of defense, Michele Flournoy, former under secretary of defense, we have, um, a number of business leaders. And then we do have eight folks from China who are quite independent minded, uh, and influential people from China. And we think it's important to have them there so that we, uh, understand the Chinese perspective on these issues as well.

Speaker 1: 04:36 You are talking about having leaders from all walks of life. Sit Down and discuss these questions, uh, informally and very frankly with one another. Why I'm thinking of one of the closest as advisors to the president on China policy is former UC Irvine, Professor Peter Navarro. And I suppose that he is not attending, is that correct?

Speaker 2: 04:59 That's correct. Actually, we don't have any current officials attending.

Speaker 1: 05:04 So do you believe Navarra's advice on trade is wrong?

Speaker 2: 05:07 Totally wrong. Um, both he and president Trump have fixated on the bilateral trade deficit between the U S and China. The fact that China sells us more products and we sell to China, but 99% of all economists will tell you that bilateral trade deficits really have no impact on the welfare of a society. We do care about our global trade balance, but a bilateral deficit doesn't mean that they're winning and we're losing the whole Trump administration approach to the economic relationship with China starts with Peter Navarro and Donald misguided notion about what really matters to the economic welfare of our country. Now there are so many other ways in which we have very legitimate complaints with Chinese policies. Their approach to building himselves into a high tech superpower is not really a market, uh, oriented one. It's much more to build up the power of China, including the military power of China. So there are a lot of issues that we should be negotiating with Shidah [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 06:34 after this, a high level forum, these four days of discussions about us China relations, are you going to be forming any kind of public consensus? What are you going to be doing with all of these ideas that you're generating?

Speaker 2: 06:48 Well, um, we're not writing a big report. That's not the objective. It's mostly about the conversation itself. We do expect that everybody who's participated here is going to take what they learned and their, uh, clarified views and go off and influence the debate. And we will be writing a, um, a short memo that may become a publicly published document on some key takeaways from the discussion

Speaker 1: 07:21 that was research professor Susan Shirk, chair of the 21st century China Center at UC San Diego, speaking about the u s China Forum starting today at UC San Diego.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Last week's ice raids in Mississippi, which led to the rest of 680 undocumented workers was the largest single state workplace enforcement action in u s history. Does this signal a shift away from the targeting of people with criminal records? That was the priority under the Obama administration and back to the days of large workplace raids, which were popularized under George W. Bush KPBS reporter Max Rivlin nádleehé spoke with the former acting head of immigration and customs enforcement. John Sandwick in our studio last week, they talked about the raids and whether criminal probes will target both workers and employers

Speaker 2: 00:41 with the rage that resulted in the arrest of x hundred and eighty uundocumented workers in ssissippi. We didn't see any charges against the employers and instead it was just the workers themselves. Why is that?

Speaker 3: 00:53 I do think the focus of this operation was on making x hundred aarrests and then getting a lot of press and I think there was a significant goal of the way in which they conducted this operation. It takes a tremendous amount of manpower that you have to divert to make x hundred aarrests of, of civil immigration. None of these people are going to be high priorities. Very few of them, if any, will have criminal histories in the ited States. Almost none of them pose an active threat to the ited States. So, so the real reason they did this, obviously a was to generate as much publicity about the operation as possible. But to be fair to the administration, I do think there is a criminal investigation ongoing as well. They were able to obtain search warrants. So these were warrants that were executed by a federal judge after demonstrating probable cause.

Speaker 3: 01:31 And typically in these federal criminal investigations, the search warrants pre-seed in any actual charges. So ultimately I think we're gonna find that some charges will be brought against employers and potentially executives of the company. Um, whether those charges are so significant that they justified the diversion of x hundred sspecial agents to conduct this operation remains to be seen. Why is it so hard for employers to fill positions at these difficult, strenuous, and at times dangerous jobs? It's just at a poultry plant. We know that people lose fingers, arms all of the time. Why is it so hard for such an important part on our kind of food system to be staffed by people who are here illegally? Yeah. It's no secret that this, this economy, our economy relies on undocumented labor. [inaudible] in the employers are not shy about that and that's why you know the Chamber of Commerce and other support, comprehensive immigration reform to kind of bring these people out of the shadows.

Speaker 3: 02:21 But absolutely, I mean when ice is looking for worksite top operations, they know very well that they're always going to find much larger numbers in these very difficult jobs. Agriculture, meatpacking, construction, that's where you're going to find your largest number of undocumented workers and these kind of difficult and generally low wage paying jobs. Frankly, because Americans are not willing to take them or the employers are not willing to pay a wage that will entice Americans to take them. And candidly, consumers, all of us are not willing to pay for, you know, chicken. The price that would take to pay that competitive wage. Now, a new rule was handed down less than a month ago, which basically would expand expedited removal, which allows ice to remove somebody from the country, uh, in a very short amount of time to nationwide and not just within a certain area from the border.

Speaker 3: 03:07 Would this raid, if this law, which as I understand it, this rule is in effect, but has yet to be implemented by ice with this raid, be something somewhere where ice could implement this, this new expedited removal rule. Yeah, this is exactly what you know, I think that the architects of expanding expedited removal would want that rule to be used on, so what you would have is x hundred iindividuals, the rural, technically by statute, expedited removal cannot be used for anyone who's been in the ited States ffor more than o yyears in the regulation that ice published. The way they interpret that, that provision is that you have to demonstrate the immigrant has the burden of demonstrating that they've been continuously present in the ited States ffor o yyears. So that means even if you've been living here n yyears and you can demonstrate through leases or payroll pay stubs or other things of that nature that you've been living in the ited States ffor n yyears, you have to demonstrate they didn't even make a quick trip down to xico tto see family members or something of that nature.

Speaker 3: 03:58 So the, and the burden is on the immigrants. So what you look at in a situation like this and what concerns me is you're going to have individuals who are not legally eligible to be subject to expedited removal, but they're sitting there at work e dday and they're apprehended by ice. They have no opportunity to go home and get whatever evidence that they might have available to them, uh, that would demonstrate they have been continuously present in the ited States ffor o yyears. And those individuals would then run a risk, a very, we would have a very significant risk that they would be subject to expedited removal, meaning they would be deported within probably days of their arrest. Uh, and we're not have an opportunity to go to an immigration judge and present whatever legal claims they might have, uh, to, you know, that they're either US citizens or that perhaps they are somehow eligible for an immigration benefit. That was former acting head of immigration and customs enforcement. John Sandbag speaking with KPBS reporter Max Rivlin Nadler

Speaker 4: 04:54 [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 00:00 San Diego musical theater, just open the jukebox musical, all shook up that pays tribute to Elvis Presley. KPBS arts reporter, Beth Hock Amando speaks with director Robert Jade Townsend and choreographer, Michael, Ms Ronnie about the show and the lasting appeal of Elvis.

Speaker 2: 00:18 Robert, you are directing all shook up for San Diego musical theater. Uh, let people know what this play is about and it's, it's considered a jukebox musical. So what does that mean?

Speaker 3: 00:28 Yeah, so jukebox musical, they started in the early two thousands and basically people would start compiling lots of songs from a particular composer or band and they would set a loosely based storyline to these things. I think jukebox musicals get a bad rap. This one in particular, it's sweet, it's touching, it's heartfelt, the music, it's Elvis. How can you lose? But the arrangements of these songs are incredible, both from a band aspect and a, um, ensemble singer aspect. It's just incredible music and it's set to Shakespeare's 12th night. So that sounds like a crazy mix up, but I'll tell you, it really, really works. It's incredibly funny and a guaranteed have a good time.

Speaker 2: 01:13 And Michael, you are doing the choreography for this now. Elvis is someone who is famously known for a particular style of dancing for him, but what's the choreography like in this play? Well, I definitely take his moves. I take the pelvis thrust, I take the rubber legs, I take the I'm sliding scooch and that's all in there button. That was magnified a lot. So there's lots of activity, there's lots of turning and kicking and jumping and leaping and lifting of girls. So it's very much in the jitterbug and swing dance type of style. And in this plate, do we actually get to see Elvis or is it only Elvis music? I would say it's an Elvis persona. A person who is like Elvis, but not Elvis, but he has the magic, he has the magic in the hips. He has the magic in the touch. Literally. Yeah. Yeah, he does. He does. Girls swoon, they faint, but then he falls in love. Are there also some kind of more serious elements to it? I understand that there's some issues with segregation and race that comes into this play.

Speaker 3: 02:11 Yeah, absolutely. So when we come into this sleepy little town, everybody's been sort of pushed down by the mayor. The mayor is a very moral character and she feels it's her job to make sure that everybody is acting appropriately. And part of that means there's this segregation, literal race segregation that's happening in the town. This Elvis character comes into town, reawakens the town, the sets them all spinning off into love triangles Galore. But at the same time they also start realizing that communities community and so they start bonding together, integrating and um, everybody falls in love with everybody. There's no longer any barriers of race or culture or class.

Speaker 2: 02:47 So this draws on Elvis's famous songs. One of my favorite Elvis movies is jailhouse rock. And, and it has, and it has a brilliant dance number in that, but I understand that that song does figure into this play. It does, is it opens the show. And again, there are iconic moves in there, but I sort of, I'll make it my own. And so there are lots of turns and kicks and leaves and some really incredible lift work from the guys and girls in the cast and they are athletes. They are so on it and so technical and it's aerobic and they just amaze me every time I watched the show. People are probably very familiar with Elvis's rendition of jailhouse rock, but just so people can get a little bit of a flavor of your show, we're going to hear a little bit of the Song Jailhouse rock from this production

Speaker 4: 03:35 one through a potty in the county jail prison man was ever, they began to, well there was gentleman and the joint began swinging shooter who is knocked out jail. Oh baby. Let's rock. Ever body in the wholesale box. We'll pick daisy to the jailhouse rock spot among the all the town of show, the blowing on the side, trombone trauma, both a meal and Nautilus crash, Boom Bang. Whole rhythm section was up. [inaudible] oh baby. That spa day. Every body in the whole film, we'll pick 10 to the jail house. Rock

Speaker 2: 04:22 smooth was the gas is part of the storytelling. It's not just, Oh, I'll break from the storytelling. It's part of it. And that's why I like to work with Robert because it's part of the scope and the idea and the concept that dance is part of the story. Tell you, yeah,

Speaker 3: 04:35 just a break from it. When we started crafting the show, I think everybody was surprised with how integral the dance is to it and how, how much there is. It's just a ton of dance and a ton of music. Um, it's almost tied together with these scenes as we go and the storylines. But a dance is imperative. It's an integral yes. In, I'm, C'mon everybody. That's where that happens. And so we, we see the, um, separation of races. And then at one moment in the dance, they all come together and mix and they stay there and it subtly you, you might not see it, but, but if you watch in the middle of the dance, they all come together and they're one unit. They're one town and not separate anymore.

Speaker 2: 05:15 All Chicago revolves around Elvis. What is it about him and his music that you think has made it so popular? Oh, across generations and you know, we still want to listen to that music today. I think alive. It's speaks

Speaker 3: 05:29 to the heart. It's like a visceral emotion reaction. All this stuff I feel like comes from his heart. All the songs are felt and song with emotion and not just the notes. Maybe something also interesting is Elvis, although we think of him as this iconic rock star, he was actually a rabble rouser. He was actually challenging authority and breaking the rules in a v. Now what we, it seems very subtle to us now, but at that time it, it meant a lot. What he was doing was, you know, almost offensive to people. So I think it speaks to people being individuals and speaking out and being who they are even against the grain. That's what sort of the theme of this show is. In a way. It's like everybody's like the mayor is telling us what to do and it's like, well we don't want to do that. We want to be us and we want to be with each other. So I think that's why this Elvis musics work so well with this piece because he's doing his own

Speaker 2: 06:25 and it's really beautiful. I liked that answer. I'm teaching my answer to Robert [inaudible]. That's a better answer. And there's a piece of music you would like to go out with. Can you tell me what that is?

Speaker 3: 06:34 Ending of act one. I can't help falling in love. Now. We've all heard the song before, but when you hear this arrangement with this cast singing this choral number and you're sitting in the audience, it's like this wall of warm, buttery sound flowing over you. That's a great image. Yeah, it is. And it is your tingle.

Speaker 2: 06:57 All right. Fair warning to everyone listening out there. Prepare for some warm, buttery feelings coming out over the radio for you. All right. I want to thank you both very much for coming in and talking with me. Thank you, Beth. My pleasure. Thank you. Yes.

Speaker 5: 07:11 Ah, Nice.

Speaker 4: 07:14 [inaudible]

Speaker 5: 07:16 holy [inaudible].

Speaker 6: 07:19 [inaudible]

Speaker 7: 07:23 [inaudible]

Speaker 5: 07:23 I can tell folio.

Speaker 6: 07:30 Um,

Speaker 4: 07:34 [inaudible]

Speaker 7: 07:37 Ah, oh,

Speaker 2: 07:43 that was Beth. Armando speaking with Robert Townsend and Michael. Ms Ronnie about all shook up the San Diego musical theater's production continues through September 1st at the Horton Grand Theater.

Speaker 4: 07:59 [inaudible].

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KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.