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Change In Asylum Rules Strands Thousands

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The Trump Administration's new rules on asylum mean migrants must receive an asylum determination from another country before applying in the U.S. If it takes affect, it will strand thousands in Mexico.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:01 Asylum seekers learned that president Trump has changed the rules leading to desperation among migrants waiting at the Mexico us border and drawing several lawsuits. Then Trump tells for Congress, women, all US citizens to go back to where they came from. What's the strategy behind the president's actions and insults? I'm mark Sauer. The KPBS roundtable starts now.

Speaker 2: 00:29 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 00:35 welcome to our discussion to the week stop stories. I'm mark Sauer and joining me at the KPBS roundtable today. KPBS reporter Max Rivlin Adler, Michael Smollins, columnist with the San Diego Union Tribune and Matt Hall, editorial and Opinion Director of the Union Tribune.

Speaker 1: 00:52 Well, Donald Trump's racist tweets saying forward Democratic Congress women of color should go back to the two other countries. Royal The nation this week, much more on that later on, yet almost lost in the upper was the Trump administration's attempt to dismantle a silent protections for those fleeing violence and oppression in their homelands. We first thought that starting on Tuesday, migrants who pass through another country on their way to the u s would be ineligible for asylum. That's everyone passing through Mexico. Since Trump says they must apply for asylum there first. But Trump's new policy was immediately challenged in court. Here's Lee Jr Joe learned a deputy director of the ACL. HCLU

Speaker 3: 01:35 congress makes the asylum laws. The administration doesn't like those laws. If they want to change them, they need to go to Congress. They can't unilaterally rewrite those laws. So we have gone to court and we have sued and said what the administration has done violates the immigration laws. Congress has passed.

Speaker 1: 01:53 All right, Mike, we'll start with you. Uh, the ACO, you've got a pretty strong

Speaker 4: 01:57 Caesarea. Well it seemed, it seems they do. I mean, Trump, Trump has and had a great record on asylum and other issues related to immigration when they've gone to court. He's won some and lost some, but it seems a little early to, to quite tell. We do know that, you know, it's certainly causing havoc at the border. Um, along with the, you know, other issues there of people just getting in. It's sort of like the Modern Day Casa Blanca, but not that a romantic in terms of, you know, that's sort of the waystation for people. And, uh, what I don't know is, I mean it seems like just about everybody trying to come here, it's coming through another country. It used to be, you know, the concern used to be all the Mexicans coming through and that people don't even talk about that anymore because that's just not the issue

Speaker 1: 02:38 in a Max. Tell us a little bit how this story has changed just in the last few days and what's the secretary of Homeland Security saying now about the program? Why the change?

Speaker 5: 02:47 Um, what they're saying now is that it isn't as expansive as they originally envisioned it. Of course, that's not necessarily what the rule actually says. Uh, the rule actually says that this is going to be border wide, that you have to apply in a country that you've translated through at least one for asylum on your way to the u s um, they walk this back and an interview with NPR yesterday saying, well, it's just a pilot program. But as the ACLU has pointed out, this is not what was actually handed down. What was handed down was a rule that affects the entire southern border. And that's what's being challenged.

Speaker 1: 03:22 Right. So I mean, confusion is raining here as they trying to roll this out or not roll it out as it were. Yes. And as has been the case for the past two years. Okay. I did want to stop making a point here to our audience. We have strived to, to have a diversified panel for today's discussion. Some weeks reporters we invite just can't make it, but KPBS a Union Tribune. Most American newsrooms have worked long and hard to diversify the ranks of reporters and editors.

Speaker 5: 03:46 Yeah. I mean we're talking about immigration and racism on today's program. It's four white gentlemen discussing it and you know, obviously we're not going to be able to offer as many perspectives as we'd like.

Speaker 1: 03:57 Great. All right. I did want to point that out. Well, Max, that would be the impact. What would be, I should say, the impact of such a policy on our border, uh, if on these thousands of asylum seekers who are waiting there in Mexico.

Speaker 5: 04:09 Yeah. You've got basically, um, now thousands of people, almost all of whom have transited through a third country or a second country on their way to the u s right now you have Cameroonians, you have Eritreans who have gone through eight, nine countries on their way to the u s not to mention, uh, the Central Americans as well who have to transit through Mexico. So it's essentially an asylum ban because very few people are not going through that third country every day. There are a ton of, uh, a good amount of Mexicans that are applying for asylum at our southern border who this would not apply to. That being said, their asylum claims do hold a little less water, um, than some of the other ones that are the, that our people are making. It's just much harder for Mexicans to get processed and get through that system without immediately being sent back to Mexico.

Speaker 1: 05:01 Mike, Actually, when you say that, that the Mexicans that the, uh, requests for asylum hold and less water, is that because conditions have improved in Mecca? I mean we know there's a lot of problems there, but a lot of violence. Yeah. But a compared to I guess the, the Central American Co trying or why is that, that that that doesn't hold as much water?

Speaker 5: 05:17 Well, we have the ability, the u s has the ability to just send Mexicans back to Mexico rather quickly to expedite the removal. And that's something that we do not have the ability to do for Central Americans because they have to be sent back at least if they are not part of the migrant protection protocols, which makes them wait out their asylum claims in Mexico, they have to be sent back to their home country and that takes a long time. They spend time in detention, um, during that time they fight their asylum cases, whereas, um, a lot of Mexicans are removed before they even have the opportunity to do that. In fact, are removed oftentimes within 24 to 48 hours of being apprehended by border patrol.

Speaker 1: 05:56 The Max. As you talk to these folks

Speaker 5: 05:58 down there in Tijuana, what's the reaction now is this policy came to light? They're as confused about this policy is pretty much any, um, you know, the idea that they have to sign up for this informal list to wait for the few slots that they're allowed a each week. And that's just slots for a hearing to be processed. So to add this on top of that, you know, I talked to people, they said, some of them had said, yeah, we saw it in the news, but we don't know how that impacts us. We don't know how this is any different than the system as it is. And you know, show a very, you know, basic understanding of the American asylum system just as any American would have as well because it's so arcane and confusing and has only become more so over the past few months.

Speaker 1: 06:37 Okay. And if this were actually to, to happen here, which is, would we expect this common sense tell you a lot of folks would now try to enter illegally asylum seekers who now come to the border, turn themselves in, maybe go through the desert, create a whole different dynamic. Who knows?

Speaker 5: 06:51 Right. But the, the problem is that, you know, this, for those who will try to claim asylum by going outside of a port of entry, that would apply to them as well. You know, even if they were apprehended and spent a good amount of time and attention and were to fight their case, if this role were to stand, which, um, even, you know, high ranking members of DHS expected to be struck down by the lower courts, even if we were to stand, you know, these, uh, individuals would not be able to apply for asylum because they went through Mexico or another country.

Speaker 1: 07:20 Matt, you had an editorial this week. I wanted to get your thoughts on that. Uh, you were talking about asylum seekers and what's the paper's position on a, this new proposal?

Speaker 6: 07:31 Uh, we haven't weighed in on the proposal itself. We've done two editorials this week, uh, on the broader issue of Trump's comments, which we can talk about. Uh, uh, in short order, uh, I'm sharing, I'm sure, um, you know, we've weighed in, uh, on, on immigration for years. The paper actually won a Pulitzer in 87 for, uh, uh, a series of editorials on immigration reform. We've always been for moderate thoughtful immigration reform. And so the editorial we had on Tuesday, in addition to talking about racism, talked about how both the right and the left, uh, when they talk about immigration reform, there doesn't seem to be a lot of middle ground. Right? On one side it's abolish ice on the other, uh, the position is these characterized as open borders. Um, and, and so, uh, our take all along has been we need something that we can all agree on and let's, uh, come to the table and talk about it. And clearly that's not happening.

Speaker 1: 08:22 Right. And, uh, Michael, you had a column this week that despite the tough talk, uh, Trump has overall been pretty ineffective on illegal immigration. Explain that. What effect might that have on his support overall?

Speaker 4: 08:34 Well, I mean, support is so balkanized and a whole immigration issue. So balkanized and divisive at this point. As Matt said, there doesn't seem to be much middle ground, but this is the thing. He came in and said he was going to solve. And so it was a bit of a scorecard. Look. Now is it all his fault? Uh, you know, you can put a lot of blame every, I mean for, for years if not decades. Congress has not been able to get a comprehensive, uh, you know, overhaul through. And that's really what everybody says needed. Um, the issue is, is so volatile and also just basically the positions are so far apart. In some cases, you know, there have been times a in less volatile times where it seemed like we were getting kind of close. I don't know that the gang of eight or the gang of five in the Senate, uh, those were different times I artisan gang of it.

Speaker 4: 09:21 Yeah, exactly. Uh, they weren't able to do it. Um, so, uh, you know, it, it is sort of interesting that, um, uh, I mean quite literally the, the immigration situation is worse since Trump has come in office, which is sort of the opposite of what he promised people. And again, uh, you know, there's a lot of, uh, criticism to go around, but, uh, is it incumbent upon a president to somehow, if this is his biggest issue to okay, this doesn't work. What, you know, you move in, do you move into different directions? But then nobody seems to be wanting to,

Speaker 6: 09:52 well, and I came abroad, it came down the elevator famously two launches campaign in 2015 sticking his neck out there. And that's the point you're trying to make. Right, right. And you also cited polls in that column saying voters overall aren't really crazy about the government's treatment of migrants under,

Speaker 4: 10:08 no, that was pretty, pretty strong. And is it really that surprising? I mean, the optics have been horrible. Uh, you know, people don't want, you know, unfettered immigration or they're, the majority doesn't, they wanted to think, Matt said, sort of a rational system and what that means, what a rational system is in the eye of the beholder. But, uh, I think polls have repeatedly shown people want a, you know, border security. They want a, you know, a, a rational system that, that, uh, works. And it's a been a dysfunctional system for a long time. But, um, yeah, whether they, you know, how they feel about asylum is, uh, another question from just how they think people are being treated and there's been some first person encounters. Um, and I think propublica had a case where they talked with one or two, um, anonymous, uh, border agents that had to work in these detention centers and it was just really eye opening and very sad.

Speaker 6: 11:00 Yeah. The optics of the whole thing has been an interesting, you mentioned propublica and uh, the border patrol there, uh, expos a on that Facebook group where 10,000 border patrol agents past and present were saying some pretty nasty stuff, uh, enters into this equation too. But look, Trump took office talking about, uh, building a wall and, and, and basically shutting down the border. And now the question has become when you see family separation and these other optics, when people get into these detention centers and see the conditions with which people are being held, you know, I, I think, uh, to Michael's point about the polling, the answer is somewhere in the middle, but there is no middle right now. Well, you know, that's interesting. We have another, uh, debate among Democratic candidates coming up in 10, 12 days. And at the first one it was noted, I think you made the note here as you were talking about your editorial about, uh, the several that Democrats, most of them probably played into Trump saying, you want open

Speaker 1: 11:54 borders, you don't want to secure your borders and let the, uh, everybody in. Um, which I think was certainly an exaggeration, but I think they left themselves open to that. Do you think maybe, um, this will become a more nuanced debate, I should say that Bernie Sanders is of all the candidates said we should bring together the presidents of these countries, bring together the ministers and the triangle countries, other countries throughout the Americas, and have a comprehensive debate on that, which seems a more reasonable middle ground there. I don't recall hearing a mother. Go ahead, Matt.

Speaker 4: 12:24 I would say he's the only candidate that has acknowledged that there's agency and forces at work in Central America and South America that are driving people to come north. If you're just trying to shut down the border or if you're withdrawing aid, what you're doing is you're, uh, making the problem that much harder to solve. And again, you have to look at it whether this is a problem that was going to happen anyway, or one that's simply been created through policies, good stretching back over decades. Um, to not have a holistic view of that I think is a shortcoming of, you know, politicians in both parties. But to actually try to solve this issue, it is going to take some buy-in from the countries that these people are leaving. And what does that look like, Mike? Mark getting back to the presidential candidates, as with everything in politics gets magnified, the more extreme views there.

Speaker 4: 13:10 There are some candidates and they might disagree that as extreme view but want to um, uh, decriminalize illegal immigration to make it a civil matter and so forth. Other candidates of the 20 odd, I forget how many years actually left them and check those power, you know, disagree with that one. It still think it should be, you know, a crime but, you know, deal with it in a, in a different fashion. So there's a lot of anx right now among Democrats who the, the some Democrats, we think the only goal in 2020 is to defeat Donald Trump. And they are concerned that the focus on the more extreme aspects, and that's what Trump is doing with a, you know, the, the four congresswoman, uh, really trying to make those people and those policies, the face of the party and the policies of the party when they might not actually be, and they probably, they pull show that they really aren't mainstream Democrats.

Speaker 1: 14:00 Well, you've transitioned beautifully here because it's time to expand our discussion. Now, the heated atmosphere around immigration brings to mind an exchange from the 2008 presidential campaign, which seems quaint today. Republican supporter of John McCain said, I can't trust Obama. I have a read about him. He's an Arab. That cane grabbed the microphone and he said, no ma'am, he's a decent family man. A citizen that just, I happened to have disagreements with on fundamental issues. That's what the campaign's all about. He's not an Arab different era. Now, this week, Trump tweeted that four democratic congresswoman, all minorities should go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Representatives, Alexandria Lacasia, Cortez Rashida to leave Aiyana Pressley were born in the u s and Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota was born in Somalia, became a US citizen as a teenager. And here's Trump this week talking about representative Omar in a rally in North Carolina.

Speaker 7: 14:59 Omar has a history of launching vicious antisemetic screens.

Speaker 8: 15:17 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 15:18 all right. I'm Mike. Let's start with the politics here. Uh, I think that this, this whole episode is so interesting. Of course, we've had a national discussion. Many republicans were enjoying an escalating spat between these four freshmen reps and Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Trump managed to instantly unite these women. And the Democratic Caucus was that a smart move?

Speaker 4: 15:39 Well, we'll see. I mean, it clearly was an intentional move. I was a political move and it's geared towards his campaign. Uh, you know, what we saw is the result of his actions or his tweets, uh, you know, it was manifested in, in the chance of sent her back in that North Carolina rally. Um, but you know, I think Trump has found his foil and these four women, they, they are very, you know, progressive. They have very liberal, uh, prescriptions for changing things in the country that a, a lot of mainstream folks don't agree with. Uh, do they hate the country? No, I don't think you can say that, but you know, that's been a, a, you know, a trope that's been used for some times or for, for decades. Uh, and always trying to paint the other party as the more extreme. Um, you know, it's a little dangerous for Trump. Clearly he tried to pull back as we've seen as saying, you know, he, he tried to stop by speaking quickly. He didn't, I mean, that, you know, on its face is just a lot that was alliance. Yeah. Was calling that frankly a lie. Um, but, but, uh, you know, so, but his whole approach here is to not just, you know, rev up the base, but to expand it, to get those people to come up that just don't vote, that aren't interested and you know, as it has before, it's taken on a very racial, uh, angle that gets,

Speaker 1: 16:57 and it's a long history in our country, a racism, xenophobia always blame the other. We can go way back into the 18 hundreds many historians have this week. Max.

Speaker 6: 17:05 Yeah, I would say just a really quick point that many of the positions that these four congresswoman hold are deeply popular and of themselves. We were talking about Medicare for all polls incredibly well. Um, you know, student debt forgiveness polls incredibly well. The action on the climate bold. I actually, the green new deal polls incredibly well. These aren't outside of the mainstream and actually I think that's why he has singled them out. Right? Um, man, well we can talk about the new green deal, which I'm not sure that that is a, the answer no, but some bold [inaudible] I will say, um, look, this week is about racism in America. Trump's tweets were racist. Full Stop. That chant, which I'm very glad you played in its entirety, which Trump disavowed yesterday, but did allow to Peter out and it took about 10 or 12 seconds, uh, that was a racist chant. Um, look, this is the game being played on the terms Trump from watts and we're gonna see what happens, uh, there. But I think it's a moment for not just Trump to disavow this. Uh, but for Democrats, Republicans, uh, aliens who are purple in skin coming from Pluto, everyone needs to say, this is America and this will not stand. And it's, it's, it's, it's an ugly moment in our,

Speaker 4: 18:16 hang on. Just one second, Mike. I wanted to make a point this morning, I just noticed in the news on the Twitter feed that the CBS correspondent for the White House asked Trump today, how would you feel if someone said Melania should go back home? His wife and he didn't answer the question. You were going to say, well, I was going to say a, you know, Nancy Polosi correctly pointed out of a Master of distraction, and that's in addition to whatever campaign divisions he thinks works in his favor. Uh, we'll see. But, uh, I mean, I almost felt like today going out and getting a raise of hands. Who knew that the House voted to raise the minimum wage to $15? Right? Is it going to get through the Senate? No. Is it going to be signed by Trump? No. Dramatic reduction. Uh, you know, given the change in the house under a more to comp times, that would be page one news.

Speaker 4: 18:58 I think as, you know, a lot of big moments are that we know aren't going to get all the way through. And that was relegated to in some places I didn't even see news coverage of it. So, uh, you know, and then there's all the stuff with the, the, the, the Cohen hush money's coming up. Uh, he knows all this stuff is happening. So, uh, and he knows that rally itself on Wednesday. That was the day Mueller was supposed to testify. They got postponed a week. Yeah. But a lot of people say, well, that was designed to, again, what you're saying, you representative Presley after the tweets and that, that news conference that they had, she said, you know, we can't take the bait. You know, we can't get distracted. But everybody's in the dilemma from the Democrats to the media to even, you know, Republican to oppose this. How do you, how do you, can you just let it go? You have to address it. And does that even further feed. And even how do you

Speaker 6: 19:43 the conversation cause news outlets. It's one thing for me as the editorial opinion director of the Union Tribune to say it was racist. There are newsrooms including the interview one decided not to specifically say that. So now the discussion is, is it racially charged? Is it a racist comment? You know, and then it gets back to did, did Trump lie? Is he a liar? How do we define these words? Racist and liar. And I had an email exchange with a reader today who said the Union Tribune editorial board is conflating nativism with racism. So that discussion has almost moved to the terminology rather than what's happening.

Speaker 4: 20:14 And the whole question earlier on about lies. And of course the Washington Post famously has chartered more than 10,000 lies, exaggerations false statements. Um, call it what you will. We were pretty clear as we noted earlier on that this whole thing, I tried to walk it back, I tried to stop it went on for 13 seconds and then the Tahlia tribe went on Max. Well I think the question over you, should we cover something like this? How much ink should we spell is a, a little besides the points thing as though this is who he's been for many years, he came to prominence as politically as somebody who was questioning where the sitting president was born.

Speaker 1: 20:49 He, right. The whole birther thing was a racist.

Speaker 4: 20:51 So you know, I, I think some, um, maybe frustration that people are having with the news media is, you know, do you have to spill ink every time an instance like this happens as opposed to saying, what does it mean that the president believes in these things that the president allows us to happen, even though he walks it back? I mean, honestly, who would buy that?

Speaker 1: 21:10 Well, that segways nicely into something in the graphic we've got for a television audience. For the record, here's what the Federal Economic Employment Opportunity Commission website says about such racially charged language, ethnic slurs, other verbal or physical conduct because of nationality or illegal. If they create an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment or negatively affect job opportunities, examples, including ethnic epithets such as comments like go back to where you came from. That's federal government itself. And people can make a stand on that. Legally.

Speaker 4: 21:42 Mark, you had mentioned you used a term history in this country has had, you know, sorry here too. There's many great things about the country, but there's many things that we have tended to gloss over and the racial divisions and racial biases have always been there. And you know, that's coming to fruition. Again. I, as I said that, that, you know, it's, it's part of the nation to it in a certain respect. And I think over history that we've, uh, it's been tamped down by our better angels and, and somebody wrote me when I said that, I said, what do you mean Antifa? I said, no, how about Abraham Lincoln, JFK, LBJ, Martin Luther King, uh, the, it sort of ebbs and flows, but it does seem that, that there is that constant there. And the question is, you know, can it be sort of suppressed, if not, you know, to change it. I, that just hasn't happened in the, you know, centuries at this country has been in existence.

Speaker 6: 22:32 That's really interesting. You mentioned, you alluded to the debates earlier. It would be, it'd be a shame to see, first of all what happens in the next 10 or 14 days, but then how this issue is, is uh, brought up or, or responded to in the debates. Because you know, with 20 candidates on stage over two nights, you can't really go deep on a lot of things, but you've got to know that this is going to come up. And the question becomes how much of Trump's approach is what we're talking about and how much of it is the other side's electability or ideas?

Speaker 4: 23:01 Well, it's interesting because a congress is going to be taking a break and people will be heading home for goodwill and most of them Argos, the democratic members of the caucuses, you know, sort of cautioning, directing, pleading with their members to really at these town hall meetings, which they all have and you know, in their districts stay focused on healthcare, uh, you know, college tuition relief and things like that or debt relief. Uh, you know, try not to get too wrapped up in, in this. It'll be interesting to see if they're successful in doing that. Cause that seems to be what people are all talking about.

Speaker 1: 23:32 All right. We've got just a couple of minutes left. Uh, the, uh, setting the pace, the president has the bully pulpit, puppet, any president setting the tone. And he was pretty, if Trump was pretty forthright this week, this is what he's going to and make the face of the Democratic Party, these four freshmen, freshmen, uh, Congress women. Um, we'll see. I mean, how do the Democrats, is that what you're saying? Simply focus so hard on policy and ignore this elevated.

Speaker 4: 23:58 I mean, they, they can't ignore it. And, and you know, defeating Trump is such a motivating factor for so many democrats. And that's why some think, you know, what we need is just a moderate that's safe that we'll win. Uh, let's be careful about, this isn't the time for the revolution. This is the time to be Trump. People disagree with that. Uh, but I think that there was a lot of focus in 2018 on various issues and not just Trump, although that was such a driving force. Uh, so I think you're going to see, you know, those, those dual approaches and um, we'll see if it works. I, you know, whether Trump wins or not, I think that this causes the Republican Party a lot of problems in their effort to, to, you know, regain the household on the Senate. I think that's where that's going to be a big problem.

Speaker 4: 24:40 Um, as we, let's not forget where this began, right? We know that Trump gets a lot of his cues from watching TV and leading up to this attack that he made on a Muslim woman on a barrio, a Puerto Rican woman on a Palestinian woman, was that the democratic, his own leadership had begun singling them out on single media. They released a poll saying these were a deeply unpopular people. Of course, this was only pulling, uh, white individuals. Um, you know, he was able to pick up that, oh, the Democrats would like to cast these members out and set them apart from them because they feel as if it hurts their electability. And that's what he sees. Don. And that doesn't happen. If the Democrats, you know, were to close ranks and say, listen, we're a big tent. There's a lot of ideas here. And uh, honestly this makes it a, a much richer party. Um,

Speaker 1: 25:25 all right, we're about out of time. We've got that debate coming up a week, a 12 days or so from now the 30th. We'll see what happens there. Well, that does wrap up another week of stories at the KPBS round table. Like to thank my guests, Max Rivlin Adler of KPBS news. Michael Smolan is at the San Diego Union Tribune and Matt Hall also of the Union Trivion. And a reminder, all the stories we discussed today are available on our website, kpbs.org I'm mark sour. Thanks for joining us today and joining us again next Friday on the round table.

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Mark Sauer hosts KPBS Roundtable, a lively discussion of the week's top stories. Local journalists join Sauer to provide insight into how these stories affect residents of the San Diego region.