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The DACA Decision

Cover image for podcast episode

PHOTO BY MANUEL BALCE CENETA / AP

Above: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students gather in front of the Supreme Court on Thursday, June 18, 2020, in Washington.

The U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of DACA recipients, COVID-19 cases surge in Imperial County, and how the Black Lives Matter movement is playing out on social media.

Speaker 1: 00:01 Illegal when for young immigrants, DACA is kept intact by the U S Supreme court, but is there still an opening for president Trump to take action? The COVID-19 hotspot just East of San Diego, how the virus is pushing Imperial County to its limit and as the black lives matter debate too controversial for next door, the mixed messages from the social network in one San Diego neighborhood, I'm Mark Sauer, the KPBS round table starts. Now.

Speaker 2: 00:34 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 00:38 Welcome to our discussion of the week's top stories. I'm Mark Sauer and joining me at our remote KPBS round table are reporters Gustavo Selise and Andrea Lopez via Fanya of the San Diego union Tribune and reporter max dribbling, Nadler who covers the border and immigration for KPBS news. Many Supreme court Watchers predicted this week that DACA, the deferred action for childhood arrivals program that was set up in 2012 by president Barack Obama would be struck down, but that's not what happened. Max. You've been covering this as the KPBS border and immigration reporter. Thanks for joining us.

Speaker 3: 01:14 Good to be here.

Speaker 1: 01:15 Well, what was your initial reaction to Thursday Supreme court ruling?

Speaker 3: 01:19 I was a bit surprised given the tenor of the court over the past couple of months and the decisions they made and especially watching the questions that were being asked by the justices during arguments, uh, for this case last year. Um, but then again, if you look at recent cases, like the decision over the, uh, census question, which had whether you were a citizen or not, um, these brought up the same issues, which were whether the Trump administration actually followed the rules for how you either rescind a program or change a program if they went the same, uh, if they went a route that actually, um, gave it legality their action, or whether they kind of tried to Ram it through, through executive action or executive order, or in this case, having, uh, the attorney general give instruction to, uh, the acting head of DHS. So it was definitely a surprise. I think a lot of people in the community were surprised. A lot of people who have DACA were surprised, but they were, you know, um, glad to see it. And of course the actual ruling itself is doesn't put them entirely in the clear at all.

Speaker 1: 02:24 And I want to get to some of those details in a minute, but explain for us briefly what the DACA program allows.

Speaker 3: 02:30 DACA program allows somebody who came either legally or illegally as a child who then either fell out of status. So let's say you came on a tourist visa and overstayed that, or you were taken into the country with your parent to not only, uh, not have any action taken against you in terms of immigration enforcement, but also to get social security, to have work authorization, uh, to get a driver's license. It was really kind of a radical stock gap measure by the Trump and about the Obama administration to let dreamers kind of, um, come in and, and become, you know, tax payers and not have to live in fear of deportation. A similar program that would have applied to their parents were struck down by a court and the Obama administration didn't have time to appeal that and get a ruling on that before, uh, their administration was over. So, uh, right now, um, as it stands, DACA is a stop gap measure that we are now several years into.

Speaker 1: 03:29 And how many DACA recipients does this ruling apply to nationwide? And in California, I've seen reports. The number in San Diego is about 40,000.

Speaker 3: 03:38 Yeah. California has the most, uh, DACA recipients that has over 183,000 DACA recipients. Um, a lot of people believe there's many more people who either could register by the time by after when the Trump administration closed registration and began winding down the program or never took the step to register in the first place. Cause they were always aware that an administration like the Trump administration could take the opportunity to, um, you know, use the information that they hand over to the federal government to find people, to track them down, to, to give them to over to ice custody. So, uh, I don't think this ruling will change people's minds who are maybe wary of handing their information over, but it will certainly, um, allow for people who are already part of the program to continue living productive lives.

Speaker 1: 04:30 And there's a bit of an asterisk in this ruling, chief justice, John Roberts said, it's not a judgment on the legality of DACA or the decision to resend it. Only that the Trump administration went about it in the wrong way, as you alluded to earlier. Could we see Trump try this again? And what might that look like?

Speaker 3: 04:48 Right. So the Trump administration could absolutely try this again. They tried this out near the very beginning of their term. And as you see, it's taken this long to get through lower court rulings, get argued in front of the Supreme courts and the timeline of trying this once again, um, would be at least a year, uh, something that the Trump administration might not have depending on the outcome of this election. That being said, chief justice, John Roberts, in his opinion, kind of laid out a roadmap for what that would look like, how to do it properly, how to stand up to the court. And it'd be very easy for the Trump administration to each time they went to court point exactly to the Supreme court's opinion and say, well, they said, this is how we're supposed to do it, and this is how we're doing it. So it's very possible that they come back in a week or a month or so. And, and it tried to rescind this program once again, um, whether it will be able to take effect or have an impact before the end of the Trump administration, whether that's in one year or four years, w we'll find out

Speaker 1: 05:45 There are plenty of politicians and advocacy groups who work tirelessly to protect DACA. How are they reacting to this news?

Speaker 3: 05:53 So United we dream, uh, local immigrant advocacy. They're all of course happy and relieved to see this, but, but again, because DACA was such a stop gap measure, one they're very appreciative of, but one that doesn't really go as far as actual, comprehensive, uh, legislation that would allow people to live openly that would allow their parents to live openly without fear of deportation. So it's, it's a partial victory. It's, it's, it's a win for today for many of these advocacy groups and many of these immigrant groups, but it also points ahead that there's a lot of work to be done. And a lot of the work they've been doing has been trying to build consensus and to create legislation that not only just provides, you know, for no longer having uncertainty for dreamers, but provides protection and legality for them and their parents

Speaker 1: 06:41 Well, and dreamers, uh, you know, have a respite now, but as you say, it's, it's really temporary. And, uh, they really needed some more concrete actions, right by Congress to ensure their rights and to stay in the country legally.

Speaker 3: 06:53 Yeah, absolutely. In Congress has shown very little interest in taking up this, uh, substantive immigration reform during the Trump administration. There were a few weeks around a year ago where they were really considering, um, you know, basically codifying DACA, adding some levels of protection for dreamers, but that was the Republicans had attached to it, some conditions for border funding, uh, Democrats balked at this. So it got caught up in partisan bickering. Once again, uh, given that this has been a thorny issue going all the way back to the Bush administration that really tried this kind of large immigration, uh, legislation. It's tough to see it basically reaching a resolution under the Trump administration, uh, even in a first term or second term, or even under, uh, uh, Biden administration. It's going to take some real soul searching and, and heavy lifting by legislators involved. And, um, you know, it's, these are remarkable times. So maybe they come up with a solution for once,

Speaker 1: 07:50 Or maybe there's a different makeup of the Congress going forward a three year reporting your offer and then contact with, uh, lawyers who advocate for immigrants. Could this DACA ruling boosts their standings and arguments on issues like asylum and ice detention.

Speaker 3: 08:05 It's a narrow decision in the sense that it is regarding this very specific, um, policy, but there are some substantive things about the administrative state that, that Robert's touched on his opinion. There are definitely things that people will look at just like in every Supreme court ruling, if it doesn't necessarily have to do with a specific issue, it might touch on it in some way. I think people will definitely cite back to it. It's not as momentous of a change of, of policy as we saw, uh, with the, the workplace ruling earlier this week. Um, but certainly it will change some of the complexion of, uh, arguments that immigrants are making as they try to, uh, fight off possible deportation and people who are appealing removal orders. Um, you'll see this decision come back, but it's not a massive decision in terms of those currently seeking asylum or those trying to find removal, but I think it will lay the groundwork for some interesting challenges.

Speaker 1: 09:00 And before we wrap up, I wanted to bring up the fact that, of course, immigration's always a central campaign theme for Donald Trump. How might this decision play into the 2020 race now against former vice president Joe Biden?

Speaker 3: 09:13 Yeah, I think if there was a decision where a DACA recipient had lost their status, then you would see a real, uh, mobilization and even bigger mobilization than you've seen among the immigrant community. Um, I, I think this doesn't necessarily demobilize them. I think obviously they still have, um, their, their demands, um, that have not been addressed by president Trump or Congress, um, from either side of the aisle. Um, I think Biden of course, has, has offered to reinstate DACA and, and offer a pathway to citizenship. But it'd be interesting to see whether he moves beyond, uh, just restoring DACA. And now that the Supreme court has kind of halted the rescission of it for the time being

Speaker 1: 09:57 Well, we'll see who gets traction with voters because there were only 130 some days out from the election, believe it or not.

Speaker 3: 10:04 Uh, the last 230 days, it felt like several,

Speaker 1: 10:08 Right. I've been speaking with max Rivlin, Nadler border and immigration reporter for KPBS. Thanks, max.

Speaker 3: 10:14 Thank you.

Speaker 1: 10:17 Medevac helicopter, stacked, overhead, waiting to ferry patients away, military grade medical tests set up to handle the overflow from the ER, the ICU unofficially named the COVID-19 wing. This is what it looks like when an American hospital is overwhelmed in a pandemic and it's happening right next door to San Diego County union Tribune, reporter Gustavo. Salise joins me to explain Gustavo welcome back to the round table.

Speaker 4: 10:41 Well, thank you. Yeah, it sounds wild. Doesn't it? What's going on down in Imperial County.

Speaker 1: 10:46 It sure does. And let's, uh, let's get into that in a second, but I want to do, uh, to bring up the fact that Imperial County is not a part of California. That gets a lot of media attention. Why is the situation there right now? Something the whole state should be looking at

Speaker 4: 10:59 Well, because the whole state is, is, is impacted by it, right? When it, when there's not enough room in the hospitals and Imperial County, that means they have to come to hospitals here in San Diego County. Uh, they've gone to hospitals in Riverside County and as far North as Sacramento and San Francisco as well. So even though, yeah, this is happening in a remote rural part of the state, that nobody really pays much attention to it. It really impacts everyone.

Speaker 1: 11:30 And as I alluded to your story starts off describing the scene at the Imperial county's largest hospital as something out of apocalypse now. And how is the region limited in its capacity to treat these COVID-19 patients?

Speaker 4: 11:44 Well, in that sense, in that specific situation is limited in space. No, there just aren't enough people there, enough beds, uh, to treat the patient overflow that they're experiencing right now.

Speaker 1: 11:59 And you mentioned a lot are coming to San Diego County, uh, other places elsewhere that, uh, that they're being fairy too.

Speaker 4: 12:06 Yes. Uh, definitely San Diego, uh, um, specifically Chulavista, we've seen sharp, uh, get a lot of patients, um, out elsewhere, closer to, um, Riverside County, Palm Springs, Santa Barbara of San Francisco Sacramento.

Speaker 1: 12:22 No, El central has the second highest rate of COVID-19 infections among Metro areas in the country. Give us some comparison to San Diego's rate.

Speaker 4: 12:31 Well, looking at Imperial County it's rate, right? It's per 1000 people. So per 1000 people in Imperial County a little over 10 have had a COVID-19 in San Diego. That number is less than one. It's about 0.58. And that gives you a sense of how big it is, right? Uh, another example like LA, right, which has, um, just by number alone, the highest number of cases in California, it has a about 19,000 cases. Uh, however, when you look at it at a per capita rate is 1.8 and nine compared to Imperial counties, 10.3 too. So if you look at it that way, like Imperial counties, numbers are 10 times higher than LA.

Speaker 1: 13:16 Yeah. That's remarkable. Those, those numbers on a per capita basis now do health officials know why the situation is so dire there and Imperial County,

Speaker 4: 13:24 They not definitively, but there's certainly a lot of factors, a known factors that go into this, right. We've seen across the country now, even here in San Diego, that cases tend to be concentrated in low income areas and high minority population areas. All of Imperial County is basically that area, right? There's also a high rates. In fact, some of the state's highest rates of asthma are in Imperial County. They have really, really poor, um, air pollution, a quality that far exceeds federal standards. And we know that's a factor when we talk about hospitalization rates, right? If you have these underlying health conditions and you get COVID, you're more likely to end up in a hospital. And the big factor obviously is that, uh, just South of the border from Imperial County, there's a, there's a city may of more than 1 million people. So even though Imperial County on is a rural place, um, if you look at it by national mind-frame is a metropolitan hub of more than a million people. I mean, Imperial County has three different malls over there that normally aren't a indicative of rural counties. So that's another big issue too,

Speaker 1: 14:40 Right? In Baja, California has had its own troubles with COVID-19. We've seen that in South San Diego County as well.

Speaker 4: 14:47 Oh, definitely. They have like T quantum Mickey Kelly has had a lot of struggles, high number of cases of hospitalizations deaths. They also have a really, I don't remember off the top of my head, but high number of, uh, police officers and medical personnel who have, uh, I've gotten sick from COVID-19

Speaker 1: 15:07 And your story refers to the fact the hot climate over there is also an issue affecting this, uh, this threat.

Speaker 4: 15:13 Yes. And not just the hot climate, obviously that's an issue, right? I was there last week and it was, but a hundred degrees over there. And the locals were saying it was a mild, uh, day on that Wednesday. Um, but I think just everything that Imperial County a residents lived through kind of contribute to what's going on down there. You know, one of the activists told me about the perspective of some of the local farm workers, right? A lot of these are people who cannot afford to live in the County. Uh, they're they're American citizens or permanent residents. Who've spent a lot of time in Mexicali. They live South of the border. So they cross every day to go to work. They've been told most of their life that working in the pharmacist, dangerous you're exposed to the heat. You're exposed to pesticide. Um, you are exposed to just long hours of work. And then when they're told about Kobe, they're saying, well, look, you told me everything else was going to kill me. So this flu was not going to be anything bad.

Speaker 1: 16:12 In recent weeks, we've seen communities, ease restrictions on business and public activities. How is Imperial County trying to do the same despite these high infection numbers?

Speaker 4: 16:23 Well, this has been a huge source of controversy in Imperial County. Uh, this, this idea of reopening, right, the County board of supervisors recently sent a letter to the governor, asking for local control to reopen or have the ability to reopen, even though they haven't met all of the criteria for reopening in response to that letter, there's been significant community pushback. They there's been over yeah. 1300. I think now it's up to 1500 people. How signed up petition asking the governor to ignore the request that their own County board of supervisors are making.

Speaker 1: 17:01 So there's a lot of tension over there between do we open up? Do we not? It's kind of a microcosm of the debate we're seeing all across the country in places.

Speaker 4: 17:09 Well, exactly. Yeah. The, the, the County board of supervisors and local governments, the mayor of El Centro told me there's that they're under pressure from businesses to open up, right? This is a County, uh, with really high poverty rates, uh, historically just generation after generation. They're among the poorest people in the state. And right now they're not working and they haven't been working for a long time. El central is a city where something like 40% of the general fund tax revenues come from sales tax. So it's not just the people who are struggling, but the cities are struggling as well. So, so they're facing that pressure. Uh, but on the other hand, the activists are saying, Hey, people are dying right here. And if you open it up, more people could

Speaker 5: 17:50 Die. Like it shouldn't be a, you know, businesses,

Speaker 1: 17:53 Health option. Really, those are the two issues. And I wonder if the governor's listening to them now, or if are representatives up there in Sacramento or making enough noise as they go. Yeah. Well, see, when I was there last week, they had not heard back yet. I've been speaking with union Tribune, reporter Gustavo Soliz. Thanks so much for joining us, Gustavo. Hey, thanks for having me. We turn now to how the nationwide protests we've seen the black lives matter movement and push for police reform plays out in a specific neighborhood. Andrea, thanks for joining us.

Speaker 5: 18:28 Thanks for having me

Speaker 1: 18:30 So much of the debate over police brutality and the black lives matter movement is happening online for those who aren't aware, explain to us what the next door's social network is.

Speaker 5: 18:41 Yeah. So I guess the best way to explain what next door is is it's kind of like a, I guess like Facebook for neighbors, right? Then the idea of next door, the people who are living next to you. So it's this social networking platform where you can interact with the people in your neighborhood. It basically does this kind of like geo locator, where you see the posts, conversations between people in your neighborhood. You also see some posts from people in neighborhoods close to your neighborhood, but say, if you're living in bargainer, Logan, you're not going to see something from someone who posts in Mira Mesa. So it's this idea of interacting with people that live in the same neighborhood as you do. And, um, you know, it's just a lot of like recommendations and what's going on, you know, did, did someone see this dog that got lost and you kind of get a lot of like different conversations going on in that network,

Speaker 1: 19:37 A neighborhood news flyer. So your story tells us how next door removed and then restored a post showing signs depicting George Floyd around Del Cerro, residential neighborhood in San Diego, not far from San Diego state, uh, why did the platform get involved this way?

Speaker 5: 19:53 Um, so basically next door, um, has this system where they have what they call leads, which are basically volunteer moderators within the neighborhood. Um, these volunteers are just people who were there as well. And what happens if, if there's a post where, um, you know, something seems inappropriate or someone can report a post or a comment, um, these leads basically decide, um, you know, they vote on whether that comment is inappropriate and if it is against the guidelines of next door and they basically take it down, if they deem it to be inappropriate, which is what ended up happening with this post, um, this post went up and basically it said, you know, these posters are going on around the neighborhood. It's wonderful. Please don't tear them down. It would it's unAmerican. And that post from a single woman in Del Cerro, um, you know, it cold like 400 comments, 500 reactions, and people were having these discussions online.

Speaker 1: 20:52 Yeah. So it gets, uh, it gets a little heated or spicy as it were as we go. Now, this online debate led to a face to face conversation with two local next door users who are on different sides of the issue. Tell us about that. How did that meeting come about?

Speaker 5: 21:06 Yeah, so that was super interesting. Uh, what ended up happening is people were commenting, right? And they were, um, you know, asking questions about black lives matter. Um, some comments were, um, you know, dicey, uh, some comments were just people in general, just wanting to learn more about the movement. Um, there was one woman in particular, her name is Mary. And, um, I guess, you know, she was just saying, she didn't really understand the black lives matter movement. Um, and she expressed that she was afraid of it because, um, you know, some, some of the protests that happen in San Diego had gotten violent. So, um, it, and she was sharing just other thoughts in general about race and this woman, um, and Mary lives in allied gardens, which is next to Del Cerro. Um, this other woman who also lives in allied gardens, uh, you know, said, you know, I'm, I'm a black woman. I've lived in this area. I've experienced different things. I would love to chat with you and discuss black lives matter. So, um, I ended up needing the woman's home Mary's home and, um, it sounds like it was a very productive conversation. Uh, you know, they calling each other friends now. And, um, although, you know, they, they have different lived experiences. They, they saw each other's points. So it was super interesting.

Speaker 1: 22:26 Yeah. It sounds like the whole national debate taken down to a granular, granular level on next door is used for mundane purposes, but it's also been criticized as an outlet for largely white well off neighborhoods as you work this story, did you get the sense of a diversity problem on next door?

Speaker 5: 22:44 Not so, not so much working on this story, although I do know that that's a concern for a lot of people. Um, I think specifically because this neighborhood is a predominantly white neighborhood, um, the woman I spoke to, um, who is black, um, just mentioned that, um, you know, these are kind of the common things that she sees on her next door, um, uh, you know, platform because that's the neighborhood that she's in. Um, she did mention, um, you know, the, the, there's a lack of diversity in the neighborhood, but again, it's a predominantly white, um, but just personally, I, um, I covered neighborhoods of the city of San Diego for the union tripping. And, um, I noticed a lot of differences in like, what kinds of neighborhoods and use, what kinds of platforms I noticed that, um, more diverse neighborhoods tend to use like Facebook groups and I don't see them using next door. I splotch, um, as opposed to some of these other neighborhoods. So it's an interesting concept to look into.

Speaker 1: 23:43 And next door says it's also steps to increase diversity on its platform, you know, with the, some of the steps are

Speaker 5: 23:49 All right. So I'm their CEO, really staying public, um, blog post, and basically said that they were going to train their lead. They were going to give better training to these leads. And, um, I guess there's just questions from the people I spoke to, you know, like why these leads, um, you know, they could, in a sense, have a lot of power. They can decide what posts go up and down. Um, but they are volunteers and they don't receive a lot of training. So it sounds like next door might be moving towards, um, giving some of these leads, some training. Um, and also it sounds like they, um, want to improve diversity within the own organization. So, you know, I, I guess that would be hiring more people of color

Speaker 1: 24:34 And those in Del Cerro plan to keep the conversation going, what's the new group that emerged from all this,

Speaker 5: 24:40 Right? So this new group is called, uh, Del Cerro for black lives matter. Um, the organizers are actually the two, uh, Del Cerro residents who posted the flyers of George Floyd originally. Um, and they're going to be having these monthly discussions. Um, Oh, well, I guess like once a month, maybe twice a month, um, they had one recently on Sunday and they have like 30 people attend. Most of them, uh, were white and older. Um, so it sounds like they're going to continue these discussions, you know, at their home and, uh, bring up some great questions and discuss ways that they can become better allies or make their neighborhood more welcoming for their neighbors who are, um, you know, people of color

Speaker 1: 25:25 Conversations are good. Dialogue is good. It was a really interesting story. I've been speaking with Andrea Lopez via phone. You're the neighborhood reporter for the San Diego union Tribune. Thanks very much. Thank you. That wraps up another week of stories and interviews at the KPBS round table. I'd like to thank my guests, Gustavo Selise and Andrea Lopez via Fanya of the San Diego union Tribune and max rhydlin Nadler of KPBS news. And if you ever miss our program, you can listen to the round table podcast on your favorite podcast app. I'm Mark Sauer. Thanks for being with us today and join us again next week on the round table.

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KPBS Roundtable

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.