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Roundtable: A New Approach At The Border

 January 29, 2021 at 12:03 PM PST

Speaker 1: 00:01 President Biden up ends many Trump era restrictions on immigration and promises sweeping reform, but the history and impacts on family separations dating to the Obama years is disturbing school enrollment plunges in districts, across California, as the COVID pandemic causes a learning crisis where had the students gone and the new democratic administrations bold plans to halt climate change and transform the energy economy may draw some support from Republicans after decades of denial. I'm Mark Sauer and the KPBS round table starts. Now [inaudible] welcome to our discussion of the week's top stories. I'm Mark Sauer, and joining me on this remote edition of the KPBS round table today. Investigative journalist and author Jean Guerrero, Ricardo Cano, education reporter for Cal matters and columnists Michael Smolins of the San Diego union Tribune. Just one of these issues would be a heavy lift for any administration. Climate change containing a deadly pandemic and overhauling a broken immigration system. Speaker 1: 01:12 This week, president Joe Biden made moves on all three we'll start at the border where the stated and cruel purpose of Donald Trump's policy to separate immigrant families was deterrence. Trump's zero tolerance program brought criminal charges against everyone entering the country without authorization. And then when parents were taken into custody, children were infamously placed in chain linked enclosures, president Biden promises reform, and has already paused deportations. But the bipartisan recent history is complicated. Joining me to explain as farmer KPBS, immigration reporter, gene Guerrero, author of hatemongers, Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, and the white nationalist agenda. Jean, welcome back to the round table to be here well in a New York times, op-ed this week, you noted that among the 3 million people deported during the Obama administration, many had jobs, homes and children here. These deportations were often devastating. How was that different from a policy carried out these past four years by Trump and Stephen Miller? Speaker 2: 02:11 So under the Trump administration, the main victims of the family separations were recent arrivals at the U S Mexico border. So these were families seeking asylum, asking for refuge at the border, whereas Obama primarily targeted families within the United States. So interior enforcement is what it's called. You know, these were families with jobs, homes, um, and often us citizen children in the United States. Obama said that he was after fella. He, he said he was after quote to felons, not families, but, you know, uh, uh, obviously all of the people that he targeted had families. And in fact, most of the people he targeted had committed only immigration offenses. So they were not actually serious criminals. And, you know, the American, psychological, which, you know, famously condemned Trump's family separations as traumatic, uh, under the Obama administration made similar statements about Obama's mass deportation saying that they were causing serious psychological harm. Speaker 2: 03:14 But, you know, back then when I was reporting on these mass deportations, there was no widespread, you know, national outrage talking, talk, calling it torture or child abuse or a crime against humanity. We only saw that under the Trump administration. And the main real difference is that, you know, Obama's actions were not sadistic. They were not motivated by white nationalism. The way that, you know, I report in my book trumpet, the Trump administration's actions were, um, but that doesn't make them any less harmful. You know, Obama ultimately deported more immigrants than Trump, but Trump removed about 900,000 people and Obama reported, he deported, uh, nearly 1.6 million in his first term alone. And just about the same during the second term, Speaker 1: 04:00 Right. And there's an impact on every one of these folks. And you had a couple of anecdotes in your op-ed piece in the New York times about the impact directly on individuals. Okay, Speaker 2: 04:08 Exactly. You know, this left in immigrant communities fractured and financially devastated often it was the primary breadwinner who was being deported. And so this often left moms and us citizens behind struggling to make ends meet, struggling to feed their children. And, you know, some people responded to the op-ed by asking me like, well, can't these families just be reunited South of the border. Like can't even, you know, these moms and, and children just go to Mexico or go to central America to be with the deported relative. And the fact of the matter is, you know, these are families that just don't have that kind of money to like hop on a plane. Um, and oftentimes they left extremely dangerous conditions at home that they don't want to go back to or expose their children to. And in many cases, these are children who speak no Spanish because they were born in the United States. So they know no country other than the United States. Speaker 1: 05:01 And in your op-ed you note that if Biden's really going to secure our values as a nation of immigrants, as he pledges to do, he's going to do far more than issue. Apologies what's needed now. Speaker 2: 05:12 So Biden, he called the mass deportations under the Obama administration, a quote, big mistake, but, you know, he, he, he needs to actually repair the harm that was done when he was vice-president, if he's serious about a more humane approach on immigration. So what I mean by that is, you know, he's, he's, he talks about this family reunification taskforce that he's putting together to reunite families that were separated by Trump. And, and I, you know, you know, I, I argue that some, that he should extend some of that same relief of reunification and mental health services to families that were fractured by the mass deportations, uh, went back when he was vice president. You know, he can't just go back to enforcement priorities that were in place under the Obama Biden administration. You know, back then Obama said he was focusing on serious criminals, but the reality on the ground was, you know, the cultures of border patrol and ice led to rampant abuses where families and communities overall were being targeted. So he's going to need real oversight. He's going to need real accountability for ice and border patrol officers. And he's going to ultimately have to somehow disentangle the immigration system from the criminal justice system. And there's a Congresswoman right now, Pramila Jayapal from Washington, who's introducing a resolution that proposes having scalable civil consequences instead of, you know, criminalizing immigration, uh, crimes. So instead of like deporting every single person who commits an immigration offense, there would be perhaps, you know, a fine or community service required of those people. Speaker 1: 06:57 Now, uh, we've looked at what is, and what was, and fixing all that, but looking forward, and there's a lot of moving parts here, but what are some of the immigration reforms president of Biden is proposing? Speaker 2: 07:07 The biggest thing is a pathway to citizenship for the more than 11 million people who are here, undocumented, who have roots in the United States who have been contributing economically. And in many other ways to the country, he proposes giving green cards to individuals who have been paying taxes and who have no criminal records. Uh, within five years, he also proposes giving immediate, uh, green cards to people who have DACA and to people with temporary protected status. So, so people who've who fled extreme conditions of, of violence and environmental devastation in their home countries. And he's also calling for improved surveillance technology at, at ports of entry. So instead of focusing on like having a big, massive wall at the border that we know doesn't actually stop flows of, of drugs and, you know, human trafficking to the United States, he'll, he'll have much more of a focus on the ports of entry where the data shows that most of these drugs are coming in. Speaker 1: 08:08 Now we just seen, as we said earlier, four years of Trump, basically bashing immigrants and backed by his party. Is there any hope of bipartisan support for any of these kinds of reforms? We did have a push several years ago of, uh, of bipartisan sport, the gang of eight. And that went nowhere. What about now? Speaker 2: 08:26 Exactly. You know, th there was this big historic push to, to have immigration reform. The, the way that, that, that Biden is proposing back in, in 2012, 2013, 2014, and that was derailed by, you know, in part by Trump, senior advisor, Stephen Miller, who at the time was working for the nativist Alabama Senator Jeff sessions. He painted this bill that Republicans and Democrats were working on as something that was going to quote to decimate America. He partnered with M you know, combative media, provocateurs, and Fox news and Breitbart to spread disinformation about the bill. And he and his nativist allies are planning to do the same with this bill that Biden is introducing. So, so Biden is going to have to work to disentangle the narrative around immigration from narratives of crime that Miller and his allies are going to be pushing, you know, immigrants do not pose a Homeland security threat. Immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than us born citizens, according to practically every study that has been done on this subject, those who pose a real threat are the white supremacists and the right wing extremists as we saw during the capital insurrection. Speaker 1: 09:43 Yeah, we certainly did. I think that played out on everybody's TV screen, and it's a tall order though, to disentangle that narrative, as you say, you've got conservative judges, many appointed by Trump to contend with too now, because a Biden's called for a a hundred day halt on deportations now for starters, and, uh, a judge in Texas is, uh, granted an injunct injunction, uh, in, uh, order pushed by the right wing governor of that state. What does that even mean? Is the judge gonna order deportation enforcement? Uh, it doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Speaker 2: 10:14 Yes, that's exactly. What's, what's going to happen. I mean, for now, basically they're siting in the lawsuit, these last minute agreements that were made between the state and various other jurisdictions and the department of Homeland security that any policy changes would require a 180 day notice and a six month review process. These were last minute agreements that were made essentially to sabotage the Biden administration. And, uh, you know, so far it seems like it's, it's, it's temporarily, at least working. Um, as far as the D as forcing the Biden administration to continue deportations for the time being Speaker 1: 10:51 Well, a tremendous challenge here going forward, and we're going to be talking to you and other reporters covering this as we go forward, because it's a huge, huge issue in our society. I've been speaking with investigative journalist and author, Jean Guerrero. Thanks Jean. Thanks back now to the COVID-19 pandemic and the lasting impact that's coming into focus over the past 10 months, we've talked about the challenges of distance learning, the toll on teachers and the inequities that have become more apparent as students have been forced to reinvent the way they learn. Now, our report by Cal matters reveals that many families are simply giving up with enrollment plunging at record levels across California education reporter. Ricardo Cano is our guests for this eyeopening story. Hello, Ricardo, how are you doing Mark? Uh, good today. Thank you. What are the projections start us out on that? How does it compare to a regular year in terms of enrollment in California? Speaker 2: 11:46 Sure. California is home to 6.1 million students in K to 12 public schools. And Speaker 3: 11:54 In recent years, uh, has been on a downward trajectory when we're talking about enrollment. Enrollment has dipped it by about 20,000 to 30,000 students, uh, over the last two years. Uh, but the enrollment dropped that we're seeing for 2020, 21, according to the department of education is pretty, pretty significant. The state is projecting that it's lost a record, 155 students, uh, in 12 enrollment in its public schools. Speaker 1: 12:24 I mean, the numbers really are startling, and I guess it, it shouldn't be, uh, uh, that shocking. You can kind of understand with the pandemic, but it raises a lot of questions. One is, do we have any idea of what's happening with these kids? Are they getting an education elsewhere? Speaker 3: 12:38 You know, we're at a point right now where we're starting to see data come out that helps illustrate or tell us how, uh, the pandemic is affecting California's public schools and students, the experts and advocates that I spoke with point to a number of factors as to why we're seeing this, uh, very significant drop in enrollment. One of them is families just deciding that they're going to withhold, enrolling their kindergartner in school for this year. The hopes that when schools, uh, resume next fall, that, that they will be operating under more normal conditions. The other is something that's been born out of the pandemic that's been really kind of highlighted is the digital divide there's students in the state who are facing clear barriers in access to getting online and connecting with their teachers and their schools. You know, they don't have computers at home, or they don't have adequate internet, internet connectivity. Speaker 3: 13:41 And so we, we don't know exactly how many students are being affected by this. The state estimated that, uh, prior to this school year, 1.2 million kids in the state didn't have the technology or the internet at home to, to do distance learning. But that ripple effect is resulting in what we can expect to be higher than normal dropout rate in the high school and middle school levels. You know, students who are becoming disengaged with school. And so we don't know what the overall effects of the decline is going to be or what the, what the long-term implications are. But, um, those are some of the key reasons that could be behind, uh, this, this pretty dramatic drop. Speaker 1: 14:27 Well, enrollment is a big factor in how we decide to allocate money to schools. I was governor Gavin Newsome, trying to soften the blow when it comes to keeping schools funded at current levels, as we wait for a return to normal, as we get through this pandemic Speaker 3: 14:41 Short-term implications of, of this drop, aren't going to hit schools financially, the governor, uh, in his budget, I included financial for schools for last school year in this school year, essentially holding their budgets flat, um, you know, in California school finances largely determined on attendance, student attendance. And so the budget included protections for that, but that's not to say that that, um, there could be longterm implications. We just don't know the answer to that yet. In the short term, there's federal funding going to schools aimed at helping, uh, reopen classrooms. The budget this year is a record of now. So, uh, we're going to have to wait and see what the actual long-term implications are going to be. And, and just how much the enrollment is going to bounce back up after this school year. Speaker 1: 15:35 Yeah. Maybe they'll get some help with federal money. We had the $900 billion that was passed in December. And then of course, president Biden is looking at a much bigger ticket going forward. We'll see what happens with that money. And have you come across parents, who've decided to pull their kids out of school. How did they explain that decision? Speaker 3: 15:51 Yeah. Uh, so when, uh, we analyze that waiver applications, it lasts flaw. You know, I spoke with a single parent, uh, in the East Bay who, you know, she's, uh, she was a single mother, uh, kindergartener per mom, usually helped with childcare, but just, you know, wasn't able to, because of the pandemic and, and just, uh, precautionary concerns. And she felt it was the best decision to put her daughter in a private school that had reopened through a waiver. Um, we're hearing stories of that connect totally, right now. It's just really difficult to kind of quantify what the, uh, movement, you know, on the ground and across communities, uh, necessarily looks like. But, um, you know, it's a very personal decision for parents to make. One of the factors in that situation was just the fact that she, she is working full time trying to support her, her daughter, and she wanted to have her, her kid B be in person and was satisfied by the precautions at that private school was taking Speaker 1: 16:56 Well. I'm sure it would be looking at the ramifications of this for years to come. It's been an incredible disruption to our society and certainly our, our school kids and their families. I've been speaking with Ricardo Cano education reporter for Cal matters. Thanks Ricardo. Thank you very much. After years of the Trump administration and his Republican party denying or ignoring climate change, a strange thing happened last month, the $900 billion bipartisan COVID relief plan signed by Trump contained several measures to address the climate crisis. Now, president Joe Biden is pushing a multi-trillion dollar plan to wean the us off of fossil fuels and transform the energy economy, union Tribune columnist. Michael Smolins joins me to explain Michael, good to have you back on the show. Good to be here, Mark. Well, the December bill was a refreshing change. Explain what lawmakers from both parties did in Washington last month to address climate change. Well, this normally would Speaker 4: 17:50 Have been huge news. Uh, it did gain attention, but as you recall with, uh, uh, the impeachment with the assault on the Capitol with the election controversy, uh, it really kind of got buried, but it was a rare bipartisan, uh, effort, uh, that was, as you mentioned, contained in the bill, but it was legislation that had been percolating for some time. And it did a couple of things. Uh, well, several things, but two main things, one, it put a 15 year phase out on hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs. Now those that's the, uh, the coolant in refrigerators and air conditioners. And that is, uh, known as a super pollutant it's in the atmosphere. It doesn't last as long as CO2, which is what a carbon dioxide, which was what everybody focuses on in terms of greenhouse gases, but it actually traps heat a lot more than CO2. Speaker 4: 18:38 So it's in the sort of short term, it's really has a lot of impact on heating up the planet. So that was a big phase out and it gave time. And some, some means for business to adjust and come up with alternatives. The other key thing was really put a push on developing research and technology for capturing carbon in the air, either at the source of like power plants or actually just sucking it out of the air. That's the technology is there, but it needs to be refined. And right now it's expensive. And so this a component of the bill provided various incentives, including $35 million in prize money to sort of speak to, to, for, for researchers to come up with, uh, uh, the technology to do that. So it was a, it was a big move in the world of, uh, you know, global warming or climate change legislation, which hasn't seen much light a day lately. Speaker 1: 19:28 No, it hasn't. Uh, and it was heralded by, uh, environmental groups and many business leaders, but it is just to start now, president of Biden is putting climate change front and center. We saw that this week, both, uh, international domestic climate czars are in place. The progressive Pete Buddha judge is the transportation secretary. That's 70% of the energy we burn and the fossil fuels mostly makes up that now, of course. So what are some of the big plans that Biden announced this week? And it's a lot of details and we don't have time for all of them, but, uh, it's a wide ranging thing. And a lot of money Speaker 4: 19:58 He did, uh, most recently signed some executive orders that start putting certain things into place. One, which was very, uh, uh, notable was that he's causing a halting temporarily oil and gas leases on federal lands. Also, he, he signed executive order to have the, uh, the, uh, federal, uh, fleet of automobiles shift over, over a period of time to electric vehicles. And he believes that will not just affect the federal government's, uh, transportation fleet, but, you know, really motivate the, the auto industry to move more heavily in that direction. And so he's, he's billing all of this, frankly, as, uh, you know, a jobs program as well. That's been a big component of his push that, that these will create green jobs and jobs that can help people transition into who have been working in the fossil fuel industry. Speaker 1: 20:49 And sure enough, uh, general motors on Thursday announced they're going to be phasing out in the next 14, 15 years all to electric vehicles. The gas cars are gone. Now, you interviewed, uh, Democrats, San Diego, Congressman Scott, Scott Peters, environmental lawyer by trade. Tell us why Peters is optimistic. There could actually be bipartisan support for big T on big ticket legislation. Like we're talking about, uh, going forward to change the transportation, uh, uh, segment the energy grid infrastructure after all, there's been big pushback already from many Republicans representing gas and oil interests. Speaker 4: 21:22 Well, that's true. I think he's optimistic because of what happened late last year, last year in December, uh, with, like I said, the, the, uh, HFCs and the, uh, the carbon capture move that had bipartisan support, uh, it's sort of interesting because one of the things that, that, you know, Biden sort of promised a lot of jobs in some of his executive orders, he feels that this will ultimately create a million new jobs in the auto industry. Well, some economists say, you know, that's like doubling the amount of auto manufacturing in place. They don't see that as quite happening, but they do see that a good push there. And they also see that, you know, in some of the move to, to wind energy and solar energy, some of the, the traits of workers, the abilities of workers do match up well with people in the mining and oil industry. Obviously there would need to be changing changes, um, and training, I'm sorry, but they do see that that that's a potential good pathway for transition, Speaker 1: 22:21 Right? And of course they're promising jobs, jobs, jobs. It's not a, uh, a net zero sum game here. And, uh, Biden's looking for growth in a lot of industries and shifting workers over. And so far cities and counties like San Diego, and some States have made impressive strides and local climate action plans, but it will take leadership on the national international level to really get things turned around on the environment. Do you see Republicans following the lead of Democrats like Biden and Peters, and actually campaigning as green candidates going forward after all Trump and Mitch McConnell and several others had nothing but duration for Alexandria, Ocasio, Cortez and our allies. We rolled out the green new deal a few years. Speaker 4: 23:00 Well, I think that the green new deal has, you know, just that term is almost, hasn't quite had the, the sort of negative connotation to political sentences defund the police. But I think it had become a liability. I'm not saying that that's a, you know, that should have happened, but you know, that was used against Democrats. If you look at the Biden program that he, you know, ran on, it's not the green new deal, but boy, in many cases, it's kind of close. There's a lot of components that he actually almost pulled from that. So I think the key thing is that if you know, it can be sold as, and hopefully it can be in reality as in something that's good for the environment and business and consumers, which is what they were saying about this recent legislation, you know, there's that win-win aspect that's awfully tough to achieve. And again, you start kind of trying to ratchet down the fossil fuel industry. That's tough. There's lots of jobs, lots of politics there, and there's going to be resistant. So that's going to have to, I'll have to thread the needle pretty funnily to get, uh, Republicans, particularly from those energy producing States on board, as well as Democrats. Speaker 1: 24:03 And finally, some of the real rich Titans of private industry are cooperating. Jeff Bezos of Amazon established a $10 billion fund to back researchers, industries, entrepreneurs, and the quest to halt warm, including some right here in San Diego, Microsoft displaced a billion dollars over the next few years, we mentioned GM shifting over many others is stepping forward. Can we be optimistic? Real solutions are coming amid the, all of the frankly horrifying news about how quickly the planet is warming. Speaker 4: 24:29 Well, it it's hard too, because it's like you say, it's gotta be an international thing. And a lot of people point at China and the emissions there, and they're going to have to come around now. I was surprised to learn how much they've been doing an alternative energy and creating a building frankly, electric vehicles, but they need to go a lot farther. And, you know, does this apply pressure that the United States is back on board with the world community in this direction? We'll have to see, but there's going to be self-interest in China. Their coastal cities are threatened by sea level rise. So that's not great. They're not going to be doing stuff out of a charitable sense, but, uh, so I think that right now, sure. There's optimism. You know, we'll get over the hump, uh, or will you go past the tipping point of no return? We'll just have to see. But, uh, I think that you see American business, the chamber of commerce realizing that this is a problem and they need to, to move forward in a way that hopefully, uh, if not enhances, the economy is a wash to where it doesn't really hurt the economy Speaker 1: 25:25 With 70 plus miles of coastline, right in this County. We've got some self-interest of our own. I've been speaking with columnist, Michael Smolins of the San Diego union Tribune. Thanks, Michael. Thank you, Mark. That wraps up our discussion of the week's top stories I'd like to thank my guests, investigative journalist and author, Jean Guerrero, Ricardo Cano of Cal matters and Michael Smolins of the San Diego union Tribune. You can find all the stories we discussed on our website, I'm Mark Sauer. Thanks for listening and join us again next week on the round table.

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President Joe Biden takes steps to undo some of former President Trump's controversial immigration policies, California's public schools experience a significant drop in enrollment during COVID-19 and a San Diego Congressman joins a bipartisan effort to deal with climate change.