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Trump’s ending DACA creates another political fault line

September 6, 2017 at 6:35 PM EDT
President Trump’s decision to terminate protections for young undocumented immigrants is one issue dividing Republicans and the nation this week. Independent Lens shares a clip of its documentary “East of Salinas,” which tells the story of one “Dreamer” growing up in California, then John Yang gets debate from Karine Jean-Pierre of MoveOn.org and editor Chris Buskirk of American Greatness.
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JOHN YANG: Well, one of the issues there Congress is dealing with is what to do about DACA.

We take a look at the story of one dreamer growing up in Salinas, California.

Jose Anzaldo is now in his first year of high school. Filmmakers with our PBS colleagues “Independent Lens” have been following Jose since he was in third grade. Produced with USA Today, this is a follow-up to the film “East of Salinas,” which is now streaming on the “Independent Lens” Web site until September 30.

This clip starts with Jose in the eighth grade.

JOSE ANZALDO, Undocumented Student: My name is Jose Anzaldo.

I’m in eighth grade, and I go to Washington Middle School. I’m good at math. When I grow up, I want to be an engineer.

Are you saying nine squared, plus six squared equals X-squared?

STUDENT: Can you try squaring them and them adding them, both?

JOSE ANZALDO: OK.

I like learning. It can be fun sometimes.

STUDENT: Jose, what was your “a-ha” moment as you tried to solve this problem?

JOSE ANZALDO: I discovered that you could find it by just square-rooting it.

I was born in Mexico. My brother and my sister, they were born here. It’s not like I’m supposed to feel like some other species. It’s just — it’s just I don’t have papers. That’s all. It’s not a big deal.

It’s not affecting me right now, but I know it will. And I will have to be ready for it.

OSCAR RAMOS, Teacher, Sherwood Elementary School: My name is Oscar Ramos. I’m a second-grade teacher. A few years ago, Jose Anzaldo was one of my students when I was teaching third grade.

Can you take away 8?

STUDENTS: No.

OSCAR RAMOS: No, you need to regroup.

He was a happy little guy, eager to learn.

Jose, you get the next one.

Jose reminded me a lot of myself as a child, growing up migrant.

JOSE ANZALDO: Mr. Ramos and I had a lot of things in common. I remember we both said we liked math, and we both like soup. It’s delicious.

OSCAR RAMOS: Every year, I tell him that I was born in Mexico, and that I worked in the fields at a very early age.

We used to get up really early, like at 4:00 in the morning. And then we would go work for 10 hours, 12 hours.

And it’s a great message for them, because they start to picture themselves being someone with a professional career, a teacher, lawyer, doctor, engineer.

I like seeing that in their faces when they realize, I can be someone.

MARIA GONZALEZ, Jose’s Mother (through interpreter): Three of my children are from here, and one was born in Mexico. That’s Jose.

JOSE ANZALDO: I do think my mom has a hard life, but I know that she can get through it.

MARIA GONZALEZ (through interpreter): Jose is still doing really well in school. I’m worried the most for Jose because he’s undocumented.

JOSE ANZALDO: It’s just, like, work on the amounts and see if that can help me learn more.

OSCAR RAMOS: A lot of our students don’t have a very strong mentor in terms of education, educational choices. I think Jose sees me as a mentor, and I’m glad to play that role.

JOSE ANZALDO: I felt like I do have the right to stay here, because I have been here for so long, and I have done my best to learn here, so that, one day, eventually, I can help people here.

When I grow up, I think I want to be an engineer. An engineer has to really know math. And I like math.

I want to go to college, because my goal in general is just to have an education, and no matter what happens, I will still strive for more opportunities.

OSCAR RAMOS: Jose is more determined than ever to succeed, and I’m more determined than ever to support him. Do I have hope for Jose? Absolutely, 100 percent, yes.

JOSE ANZALDO: There’s always a chance to do what you want to do, as long as you don’t give up.

JOHN YANG: What to do about dreamers like Jose is just one issue dividing Republicans and the nation.

Here to walk us through the latest political fault lines is Karine Jean-Pierre, a veteran of the Obama administration and a senior adviser to MoveOn.org, and Chris Buskirk, editor of the online journal American Greatness, who joins us now from Phoenix.

Chris, let me start with you.

What happened this morning with the president and the leaders from Capitol Hill? The Web site Axios is quoting a top Republican as saying that what he did today was — quote — “the legislative equivalent of giving an entire stockpile of weapons to Democrats and inviting them to take the Republican Party hostage.”

What do you think? What’s your take on this?

CHRIS BUSKIRK, Editor, American Greatness: Well, I would love to know who gave that quote. I think that’s pretty rich.

What we saw today, I think, is a warning shot across the bow of the Republican leadership, which has thought that they could get away with trying to control the White House from Capitol Hill, without ever actually having control of their own house, without ever having their own house in order first.

We have seen this Republican leadership over the past eight months do absolutely nothing. They have fulfilled none of the promises that they made to their constituents, let alone to the deals they had with Donald Trump about working on his agenda. They just haven’t accomplished anything on the agenda. They don’t have anything to show for this past eight months in office or in session.

And so I think Donald Trump is saying to them, look, if you guys aren’t going to do something, if you guys aren’t going to move legislation, then I’m going to find people to work with on Capitol Hill who will do it.

And this is why I think I have got to tell you, as somebody who supports Trump, as a Republican, I think it was a good move. The president has a responsibility to the American people, and I think he’s trying to move things along in a way that is productive.

And the Republican leadership and the Republicans on the Hill need to take notice, and they need to fall into line.

JOHN YANG: Shot across the bow, Karine?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, MoveOn.org: Well, I have to say, John, I think Chris and I agree on something here.

I see it a little bit differently when — about the takeover. Look, I think that Republicans have allowed their party to be — to be taken over by Donald Trump, a hostile takeover. And all of these red lines that have been drawn from the last 18 months, especially into this administration, whether it was the Comey firing, “Access Hollywood,” defending Nazis and white supremacists, they never — they allowed it to happen, essentially.

They had an opportunity to censure Trump, and they didn’t do that. They had opportunities, many opportunities, to take action. They didn’t do that. And so I think that this is on them, for sure.

But the other part of it as well is that Republicans own everything in Congress. They really do. Most of Trump’s major agenda items, they needed 50 votes, not 60 votes, and they haven’t shown that they could just really run a government on a basic level.

JOHN YANG: So, let’s talk about that, talk about the — now the big test facing the legislature now, Congress now, Chris.

And I’m particularly interested in hearing what you think coming from Arizona about what the president did with DACA this week.

CHRIS BUSKIRK: Yes, it’s interesting.

I mean, this is — there’s a couple of things going on here. Of course, anybody who has followed this president as a candidate or as a president knows that this is one of his longstanding promises. So, no surprises here in one sense, right? This didn’t come out of left field.

President Trump promised when he was candidate Trump to end DACA as soon as he got to the White House. He disappointed some of his supporters because he didn’t do it in January or at least in February. That was an expectation based on those promises.

But what he’s doing here, I think, is righting a wrong that has been really a bipartisan wrong that has taken place over 30 years, which is just the cynical ploy by both Republicans and Democrats to fail to deal with immigration on its own terms, not to pass any legislation, to hold people hostage.

They won’t enforce the law, and they won’t amend the law. And so it leaves people in limbo. And even Barack Obama, when he passed — not passed, but when he signed DACA back in June of 2012, that was a cynical campaign ploy leading up to the 2012 reelection. It was only a couple months before.

He said that he didn’t have the power to simply unilaterally suspend deportations. I agree with him on that. The process here is important. To undo the executive order DACA, and to force Congress to do their job, which is to legislate on these issues, I think that’s good government.

I think that, regardless of what you think of whether DACA as legislation should be in place or not, it has to come from the Congress. And I think we should have that debate as the American people and through our representatives in Congress and come to a resolution, and then live with it.

But this idea of holding people hostage because Congress fails to act, I think, is just wrong.

JOHN YANG: And, Chris, I just want to make sure I understand you correctly. You’re making a distinction between the way — the policy itself and the way the policy was put in place?

CHRIS BUSKIRK: Absolutely, yes.

I think that they’re two distinct things. What Donald Trump did — and he made the same distinction. He said, look, I’m rolling back DACA, but I’m giving it — on a six-month suspended sentence, so to speak, and I’m giving Congress time to work it out.

Well, that’s Congress’ job. They need to do it. Unfortunately, Congress has gotten way too good at not doing anything. We saw this with the debt ceiling thing today as well. Congress keeps — they specialize in nothing so much as just kicking the can down the road.

Well, now they have got something that they need to deal with that they should have dealt with a long time ago.

JOHN YANG: Karine?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Well, here’s — the fact of the matter is Donald Trump and his administration are sending a very clear and simple message, which is, if you don’t not look like us, you do not belong in this country.

That is what they have been doing time and time again over the last eight months. And here’s what I find really fascinating, is their argument. So, when it comes to Muslim ban, it’s OK for Donald Trump to do a wide-authority Muslim ban and actually deal with immigration then.

But, when it comes to DACA, oh, no, you know what, let Congress deal with it.

And this is the same man who said, I alone can fix this. That’s what he said going into the presidency. So, I think there’s some inherent hypocrisy here that is quite unbelievable.

And I think the last point that I want to make is that it is remarkable to see that Jeff Sessions was the person who made this announcement, the same person who lied in front of Congress to get his job, which is probably — he probably committed some sort of — some sort of — he probably broke the law by lying in front of Congress.

And he’s the one that made this announcement about these young people and if they should be here or not.

JOHN YANG: Chris, what about that comparison between the immigration policy and DACA, both executive action?

CHRIS BUSKIRK: Yes.

I mean, just, look, the president, obviously, has the ability to take executive actions. But what people have agreed upon is that with regards to — with regards to deportations, with regards to enforcing laws that have been enacted by Congress, the executive branch has an obligation to enforce those laws.

That wasn’t the same instance with regard to what people call the Muslim ban, the travel ban. This was the same ban that was proposed, by the way, by the Obama administration. Right? This is nothing different.

I want to go back to what I think is the key point here, which is that Donald Trump is virtually begging Congress to send him a DACA look-alike bill, right? For him to say that he’s saying you don’t look like us and you’re not welcome here, I don’t think so.

And I don’t think that what he said to Congress bears that out either. He is saying, look, this was done incorrectly. This is Congress’ responsibility. Even Barack Obama said that he couldn’t do what he ultimately did. Now, Congress, deal with it. Send it to me.

He hasn’t said it explicitly, but he sure is sending the signal that if they send it to him, he will sign it.

JOHN YANG: Chris, Karine, I’m afraid we have got to leave it there.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Oh.

JOHN YANG: You got something quick, maybe?

(LAUGHTER)

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: No, it’s just not true.

He is — he is appeasing his small and shrinking base. And just look at every action that he has taken. It has been about his small and shrinking base. This is a guy who defended white supremacy and Nazis. Come on now. That’s just — that’s not right.

JOHN YANG: Chris, Karine, thanks so much. We have got to leave it there.

CHRIS BUSKIRK: Thank you.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you.

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