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Trump’s tweets about DACA and migrant ‘caravans’ in context

After a weekend flood of tweets about immigration, President Trump on Monday declared that "DACA is dead." Lisa Desjardins puts the president's long-shifting stance on immigration policy in context and Judy Woodruff learns more about a group of Central American migrants who are making their way to the U.S. border from NPR’s Carrie Kahn, reporting from Mexico.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    President Trump capped off his two-day barrage of immigration-related tweets by declaring today, DACA is dead.

    Lisa Desjardins puts the president's long-shifting stance on immigration policy in context.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Let's start with the latest from President Trump today at what is usually a non-political event.

    DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States: Thank you all for being here, folks.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    The annual White House Easter egg roll. The president was asked about his tweets on immigration.

  • DONALD TRUMP:

    It's a shame, and now people are really taking advantage of DACA. And that's a shame.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    This after weekend flood of similar Trump tweets. Why now? Well, it may be a response to FOX News segment.

  • MAN:

    A caravan of migrants, at least 1,200-strong, marching across Mexico toward the United States.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Shortly after that aired, Mr. Trump declared: "Border Patrol agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the border because of ridiculous liberal Democrat laws like catch and release. Getting more dangerous. Caravans coming."

    Let's dissect that.

    Catch and release is the policy of releasing undocumented immigrants while they wait for a hearing with an immigration judge. A smaller point here. It's not a law. It's a policy.

    A larger point. About a year ago, then Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said this:

    JOHN KELLY, White House Chief of Staff: We have ended catch and release.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    This weekend's tweet adds to confusion over whether the program has ended.

    Second, Mr. Trump mentions caravans coming. This refers to a group of at least 1,200 Central American migrants, many making their way to the U.S. border. They reportedly plan to ask for asylum or consider crossing illegally. The group says this has been a regular event for years.

    Another tweet and another question. "The big flows of people are all trying to take advantage of DACA," Trump said.

    There is a factual problem there. Since President Obama created the DACA program, it has been limited to only those who brought into the United States illegally by the year 2007. So, bottom line, any child brought into the U.S. illegally now or in the past few years can not qualify for DACA.

    This brings us to politics. "DACA is dead," the president tweeted this morning, "because Democrats didn't care or act."

    Here, the president is ignoring that 14 Republicans, not just Democrats, voted against his DACA plan in February.

  • MAN:

    The yeas are 39. The nays are 60.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    And, of course, there is this fact: Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Trump administration shut down DACA, arguing it is illegal.

    Opinions aside, in the most literal sense, DACA is dead because President Trump ended it. There is truth to one element here: Trump is hitting a very real nerve when he blames Democrats on DACA.

  • REP. MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM:

    Stop holding these young people hostage.

    Do the will…

    (APPLAUSE)

  • REP. MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM:

    Thank you.

    Stop holding them as your political pawns.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Democrats vowed to protect DACA recipients, but the three-day government shutdown over the issue in January backfired for them.

    This failure has angered Democrats' base and Hispanics.

    So, where does this leave DACA? There are many tweets, but there are currently no talks about a possible DACA deal. There haven't been for over a month. That has left some 800,000 DACA recipients still in limbo, looking not to Congress or to the president, but to other branch number of government, the courts, which could rule sometime this year.

    And, by the way, they generally do not tweet.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I'm Lisa Desjardins.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    NPR correspondent Carrie Kahn has been keeping track of all of this, including the caravan's progress.

    Kahn covers Mexico and Central America. And she joined us a short while ago via Skype from the city of Monterrey in Northern Mexico.

    She begins with what is driving this latest migration.

  • CARRIE KAHN:

    They are people that were already in Mexico, had already made their decision to leave Central America, and had been at the border — southernmost border town Tapachula, Chiapas.

    Activists in Mexico and some from the United States come and have been trying to organize them in a group. They are not in a bunch of caravans and cars. They are people that were already there, had already made the decision to leave their home countries and they're on their way headed north.

    So they're traveling in a large group. This is a very large group. It's about 1,200 migrants. The majority are them from Honduras. And they're fleeing the violence that has taken over these countries in Central America, particularly Honduras, organized crime gangs, extortion and incredible violence there in those countries.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Are they all planning to try to get into the United States or is it known?

  • CARRIE KAHN:

    That's a good question.

    I can tell you, last year, when there a caravan very similar to this one, I met up with a lot of people in Mexico City when they were coming through. And a lot of them had decided at that time — this was May of last year, just a few months after President Trump had taken office, and they decided that they didn't want to try to get into the United States.

    They were fearful that they would be detained at the border and would not be allowed in. So a lot of them have been asking for political asylum in Mexico. The number of refugee and asylum petitions in Mexico have skyrocketed in recent years, especially last year. There were more than 10,000 petitions for refugee and asylum claims in Mexico.

    Some of them will ultimately try to get to the border. The organizers of the caravan told me that what they do is, they give them information about the difficulties and the complexities of applying for asylum in the United States.

    So, some of them, maybe along the way, will change their mind, not try to get in. Some of them will ask for asylum at the border. Some of them may try to sneak in without authorization.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, for those who try to cross at the border, how easy is it for them to do that?

    And I just want to refer back to what President Trump was tweeting about today. He said these liberal laws like catch and release, he said, are keeping the border agents from doing their job.

    So what's the reality of that?

  • CARRIE KAHN:

    Well, I can just tell you what apprehension figures are along the border.

    You can get an idea of how many people are getting through by the apprehension figures. When President Trump took office, the apprehension figures plummeted along the Southwest border. And they have been slowly increasing.

    February and March are historically the times of the year when migrants from Central America do attempt to get through the border. And we have seen a steady increase in the rise of numbers again, so it looks like more Central Americans are coming to the border and are getting through.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Is there any doubt, I guess, in people's minds, in Mexico, who follow this issue that President Trump wants immigration from the south slow down or stop?

  • CARRIE KAHN:

    Well, there have been times when Mexico has cracked down on migration through its country and has had the wherewithal, the political wherewithal, and also the resources.

    It's very expensive. Tens of thousands of Central American migrants come through Mexico every year and are apprehended and deported by the Mexican government.

    If you remember, back in 2014, when the large numbers of unaccompanied minors were coming through Mexico on their way to the U.S. border, Mexico did crack down and many of those minors were deported from Mexico.

    But to sustain that type of enforcement is very expensive for a country like Mexico. It was not able to sustain that level of enforcement. They don't have the border guards, they don't have the detention facilities that are needed, if that's what they want to do.

    And, apparently, right now, they just really don't have the political will either to do that.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Such a complicated story. It just seems to continue.

    The president's comments don't slow down at all.

    Carrie Kahn, reporting for us from Monterrey, thank you very much.

  • CARRIE KAHN:

    You're welcome.

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