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President Barack Obama signed executive orders on immigration last week, which could protect as many as five million people from deportation. The president said he had no choice because of inaction by congress. Supporters of the move hailed the decision as long-awaited relief for millions of undocumented immigrants living in the shadows. But Republicans strongly oppose the president’s order, saying it’s an overreach of power. GOP governors of several states have said they may sue the president. And some in Congress are even raising the possibility of impeachment. Diane and guests discuss Republican response to White House action on immigration.
- Dante Chinni Columnist, The Wall Street Journal, and director, American Communities Project at American University.
- Michael Shear White House correspondent, The New York Times
- Cristina Rodriguez Professor of law, Yale Law School
- Leslie Sanchez Republican strategist, former White House Director of Hispanic education under President George W. Bush; author of "Los Republicanos: Why Hispanics and Republicans Need Each Other”
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. President Obama signed executive order Friday that would protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. House Republicans have denounced the action, saying it violates the constitution and some Republican governors are threatening to sue the president.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me to discuss the Republican response to President Obama's immigration orders, Michael Shear of The New York Times and Dante Chinni of The Wall Street Journal. Joining us from a studio at Yale University, professor of law, Cristina Rodriguez. And from Los Angeles, California, Republican strategist, Leslie Sanchez.
MS. DIANE REHMYou're invited to weigh in. Give us a call at 800-433-8850. Send us your opinion to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. And welcome to all of you.
MR. MICHAEL SHEARGood morning.
MR. DANTE CHINNIThank you.
MS. CRISTINA RODRIGUEZGood morning.
MS. LESLIE SANCHEZThank you.
REHMGood to see you all. Michael Shear, you've been traveling with the president. What lead him to make this announcement last week?
SHEARWell, I think there's probably two things that lead him to do this. One was an intensive frustration on the part of the president and the White House with the Republican Congress blocking the legislative attempt to do this, right? They've been trying for, well, frankly, for decades to do some kind of overhaul of the immigration system and during this presidency, you know, they had passed a Republican bill in the Senate and the House had blocked it, refusing to act.
SHEARAnd so there was a kind of growing frustration on the part of the president that he couldn't convince the legislature to do anything that way. And I think the second thing was a real shift in pressure from the Hispanic community, the immigration advocacy community, which for most of that time had been keeping the pressure up on the Republican lawmakers to act and then some time last summer, there was a sort of shift where they suddenly decided enough is enough and they really put the pressure back on the president to act on his own, really angry about the number of deportations that were taking place and this kind of incredible shift of demanding.
SHEARAll of a sudden, instead of protesting in front of Congress, they were protesting in front of the White House, in front of the gates to the White House saying, the president has to act. And I think those two things came together and I was impossible for him not to do something.
REHMSo why did he wait until after midterms?
SHEARWell, I think that, you know, there's a variety of people, depending on who you ask, you'll get a different answer. I think the one that the White House tells is that they were convinced that had they acted before the elections and then the Democrats lost the Senate that the issue of immigration would have taken the blame, would have been the fall guy and that from that point on, it would've been even harder down the road in the years ahead to ever do anything on immigration because it would have sort of forever been tarred as the reason Democrats lost and that that would've been a bigger problem for them.
REHMSo now, Republicans are saying that President Obama has gone back on what he had said previously. For example, that he was not king, he was not emperor, he didn't have the right to do this alone. What changed?
SHEARWell, I think what changed was that during the period that he was repeatedly asked whether he should act alone and he said he couldn't -- and that is true. This was not one or two comments. This was repeatedly over and over and over again, he said, I don't have the authority to act. The White House claims, well, you know, it was different. The question that was asked of him was, can you stop deportations for everybody? That is not true. I have listened to all of these questions. That is not what he was asked.
SHEARI think the truth is that it was in his interest to play down the authority he had because was trying to keep the pressure on the Republicans to act.
REHMSo you're saying he had the authority right along.
SHEARI think he -- I mean, I'm not making a judgment myself. I'm not a lawyer, but I think he thought he had the authority all along, but it was not in his interest to admit that or to say that he did because it would've taken the pressure off the Republicans. Once they decided that they were gonna go ahead and act, it became then imperative for him to sort of let people know that he thought he had the authority and that's the difference that you're seeing.
REHMMichael Shear, White House correspondent for The New York Times. Dante Chinni, so far, yesterday, especially on "Face The Nation" with Bob Schieffer, we heard Republicans make a kind of muted reply. How did you read that?
CHINNIWell, I think -- it's hard to say what the -- there are a lot of voices in the Republican Party so I think that the strength of the reply is going to depend on who's doing the replying. I think that, you know, you're gonna hear different things out of Steve King and Ted Cruz and you're gonna hear out of Mitch McConnell and John Boehner. But I think that it's a very difficult issue for them. Look, Hispanics are a growing segment of the population and they matter.
CHINNILook. Right now, what's happening in elections is Republicans are winning the white vote overwhelmingly, you know, and Democrats are winning the young people and minorities. And right now, they're kind of evenly split. But at some point, as the Hispanic vote keeps growing and growing and growing, they're going to have to -- the Republican Party is going to have to reach out much more aggressively to them. So I think they're not really sure what to do on this.
CHINNIThe president's kind of -- Mike and I were talking about this a little bit before. He's really kind of placed them in a box on this where they kind of have to do something. I mean, but if they do something -- if they do do something, then what they're doing is they're caving to his "give me a bill," right, and -- but if they don't do something, then this thing's going to kick around. And especially in 2016, this becomes a very tricky issue for the GOP.
REHMDante Chinni's a columnist for The Wall Street Journal. Leslie Sanchez, you worked on immigration issues inside the Republican Party for many years. How would you characterize the responses of members of the Republican Party thus far?
SANCHEZI think it's quite consistent with how the opinions differ so dramatically within the Republican Party. You have an economic conservative base, a broad base coalition of business interests, you know, everything from the high tech that support the H1B high tech visas, support agriculture, hospitality, different types of industry that are really advocating and have been for decades to have meaningful reform, but empower employers to make the right kind of verifications and things, what sometimes after '96 -- even after '86 and after '96, they felt that their hands were tied with limited technology in a big bureaucracy.
SANCHEZSo you have a failed immigration system that frustrates business and some interests. You have an evangelical, kind of a social base part of the party that very much wants reform because it's a compassionate and smart thing to do and then there's another part that's very focused on national security, border security and kind of violation of the rule of law and that's -- these are all legitimate voices within the Republican Party, but weaving it together and finding a coalition strong to pass meaningful reform is a very difficult thing to do.
REHMNow, past Republican presidents, George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, have passed or announced similar actions. How do what they did differ from what President Obama has now done?
SANCHEZPresident Obama's action is much broader than what was seen by previous presidents.
SANCHEZThose -- well, those were technical corrections to '86 and '96 that allowed certainly more people within the process of the law. But this was a much broader sweeping -- because you're talking about 5 million people. And that's -- it was about 2 and 3 million people that the previous administrations had authorized. It's also the way and the political theater associated around this. This, in many ways, is thumbing their nose -- the president's thumbing his nose at the Republican Congress and it forces action.
SANCHEZSo there's some positive sides in that it's some reprieve for a short period of time that many Republicans have been shouting in the wilderness trying to get done. On the negative side, it's extremely bad process. It's gonna make it -- it's an acrimonious effort now between the two entities and it's going to make it difficult to have anything done out of sincerity, a push-pull and a lot of chest moving for the next, at least, couple of years.
REHMLeslie Sanchez, Republican strategist, former White House director of Hispanic Education under President George W. Bush. Cristina Rodriguez, how do you see it? Has President Obama gone beyond any legally allowed strictures with this action or has he simply done what other Republican presidents have done?
RODRIGUEZI think he's acted well within his authority as the head of the executive branch in exercising discretion here in a world of limited resources, prioritizing whom to deport and whom not to deport. I do think that what he's done here is different from the Family Fairness Programs of Reagan and Bush, but I wouldn't describe what he's done as a technical correction or what they did a technical correction.
REHMAll right. We're going to take just a short break. Cristina, I'll come right back to you after this short break. We'll also be taking listener calls, comments. I look forward to hearing from you.
REHMAnd welcome back. We're talking about the president's order on immigration reform that he issued late Friday and apparently got lots of negative blowback from Republicans. Here in the studio with me, Dante Chinni, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal. He's the author of "Our Patchwork Nation: The Surprising Truth About the Real America." Michael Shear is White House correspondent for the New York Times.
REHMJoining us from Los Angeles, Calif., Leslie Sanchez, Republican strategist, former White House director of Hispanic education under George W. Bush. She's the author of "Los Republicanos: Why Hispanics and Republicans Need Each Other." And Cristina Rodriguez, professor of law at Yale Law School. And it was to you, Cristina Rodriguez, I was asking about the legality of the president's move just before the break. Sorry to have had to interrupt you.
RODRIGUEZNot to worry. As I was saying, the so-called Family Fairness Program that you and Leslie both invoked that Reagan and Bush adopted, was intended to provide relief for spouses and children of unauthorized immigrants who were legalized by congress. The difference between that policy and what Obama has done is that the spouses and children under Family Fairness were eventually eligible for lawful status. And that's not the case here.
RODRIGUEZAnd so the precedent is distinct but it is nonetheless a helpful precedent because it demonstrates how the presidents historically have used their discretionary powers as the chief prosecutors to provide relief in circumstances where they determine that deportation is not appropriate or inconsistent with either congressional goals or the overall operation of the system. And so even though those precedents are not precisely on point, they underscore the nature of the power that President Obama has lawfully exercised here.
REHMIt was interesting that the White House did release its own legal justification for the order on the night of the president's speech. Do you think that the congress will sue the president and say that he does not have the authority to do this?
RODRIGUEZIt's certainly possible. They will -- I think the judgment whether to do that is a political judgment and I'm not a political strategist so I'm not sure that it's in their interest. It seems in their interest to at least threaten it. From a legal point of view it's very questionable that members of congress would have standing to bring the suit. And I think it's unlikely that a court would address these questions.
RODRIGUEZThere might be lawsuits raised by immigration officials themselves. There was one that was pending after the Deferred Action program in 2012. A court dismissed that as not having jurisdiction over it. But it's possible that a similar lawsuit by civil servants will arise arguing that they're being forced to violate their oath of office. Again, it's not clear whether there's jurisdiction for a court to hear such a suit, but I think you'll start seeing legal arguments against the president's actions formed and efforts to get them into court.
REHMInteresting, Michael Shear, that the president -- the White House is claiming prosecutorial discretion. How are Republicans going to respond to this order in your mind? To what extent have they figured it out?
SHEARI think that's part of what they're trying to figure out. And I think the previous comments about how diverse the party is make that more difficult. What you've seen to date, I think, and we're only in the early few days after this, but has been a focus on not what he did so much as how he did it, right.
SHEARAnd so the questions of executive power, the questions of abuse of power -- I was riding in a cab in Las Vegas when I was with the president earlier this weekend. And the cabdriver, all he wanted to talk about was president Obama seizing power and taking control of, you know, the White House in a way that he shouldn't have. And so I think that message can kind of sidestep some of the divisions in the party about the substance of the issue on immigration.
SHEARUltimately what they do about immigration, whether they try to pass some bills, whether they don't try to pass some bills, whether it gets caught up in the presidential debate and conversation, all of that is going to be separate from the other question.
REHMBut do you see that reaction as different from the reaction after Presidents Bush and Reagan made their decision? Leslie Sanchez said that it's the degree of the scope of this decision that is changing.
SHEARI think there's some of that. I think there's something to that. This not only is a bigger number but also maybe broader in its reach to different parts of the system. But I also think that our politics have changed. And the Tea Party in the kind of Republican Party we have in congress now is different than we did in Reagan's time. I mean, let's face it, Reagan was a Republican president who passed and supported and signed an amnesty bill. So our politics have changed and I think that dictates the change in the kind of reaction that we're getting.
CHINNIJust for the heck of it last week on Friday I went back to the 2006 Wall Street Journal NBC poll and I looked at responses among Democrats and Republicans to Bush's plans back then, which was kind of a worker visa. And actually when you get right down to it, it's not really very different from what President Obama has ultimately proposed here. It's actually somewhat similar. And the numbers were flipped. Republicans, now this is Republicans at large, not Congress members, but Republicans were in favor of that plan 52 percent in favor of it. Democrats, only 45 percent were in favor of that.
CHINNINow there are all sorts of other issues here as executive privilege and what he should've done with the executive order and so on and so forth. But just when you get down to the shear question of the policy, the thing that's very interesting...
REHMAnd the politics.
CHINNI...and the politics, it is what jersey you have on in this town increasingly and whether you're rooting for the blue team and the red team. And that's very disappointing.
REHMLeslie Sanchez, I know you want to jump in here.
SANCHEZI agree. I think there's a deep distinction between the political process and the policy. But I know in politics if you're opponent is arguing policy and you're arguing process, he's going to win. It's a losing battle for Republicans to argue just process and not move forward with some sort of initiative on their own, some sort of law and measure.
SANCHEZThe other part just I wanted to add, when you go back and think about it, I think we have longer memories because these were laws, '86 and '96 laws of intended consequences. Right after '86 for the next two decades it quadrupled the number of people that came across the border. There were a lot of -- there was a surge in counterfeit documents you could get in Los Angeles, you know, for $50, an ID card, you know, a social security card, just this proliferation of fake documents to meet the needs of the new law.
SANCHEZIf you don't think through these policy initiatives very clearly and really have both parties coming together, it can reap tremendously negative consequences in the future.
RODRIGUEZI certainly agree with the point that Leslie just made that the seeds of our current problem were sown in 1986 in part because the enforcement mechanisms that were created as part of and to go along with the legalization program have not proven to be especially effective.
RODRIGUEZBut I also think that we're in a different world now than we were in 1986. I think circumstances demographically and economically in Mexico have changed considerably. The number -- the net illegal immigration from Mexico has dropped to zero. And as a combination of those factors across the border and also the recession in the United States and also of the Obama Administration's own doubling down on enforcement particularly at the border.
RODRIGUEZAnd so while I think it's important to think through the consequences of any policy, I don't think what the president has done in this instance is like what happened in 1986 and will lead to a similar perpetuation of illegal immigration in the way those reforms arguably did.
REHMCristina, several Republican governors have said they may sue the president. One what grounds would they sue him and how would that go?
RODRIGUEZI'm very curious to see their complaints because I don't know what the grounds would be. It's a really interesting inversion of the federal government's lawsuit against Arizona and other states that tried to adopt their own immigration policies. And now the states want to fight back against the federal government's granting of relief here. And like with the Republican members of congress, I think these statements by governors are probably largely politically motivated. But I'm waiting to see the complaints because I think we're going to see some legal innovation if they will in fact file them.
REHMAnd to you, Leslie, what happens when the new congress comes in? Will they in fact move toward adopting perhaps their own legislation?
SANCHEZI think the pressure's very high right now for the speaker to come forward, find those 100 votes to move a measure. And I think this is where the chest pieces start to lay out a bit. We talk about unattended consequences. I want to agree there. But one of the rarefactions of this is, there's a lot of miscommunication when it comes to the U.S. southern border. And it could be misinterpreted by many individuals, especially when you're listening to Spanish language media, what this exactly says.
SANCHEZSo we don't know how our friends south of the border are going to interpret this and what that means in terms of flow across the border. And we've seen some things in the past. So I'm just saying we don't know how this is going to be perceived.
REHMIf I could interrupt there, it's because -- at least the conjecture is that this could lead to a huge flow across that southern border as people in those areas try to take advantage of the president's order?
SANCHEZIt's hard to say that that would happen, but at the same time it's happened in the past. So I think it's imperative for congress, the new congress to move forward with a permanent solution because that's going to be the distinction now, is that there's a lot of confusion on this. It's kind of a false hope because it's temporary. But moving - Republicans have an advantage if they move forward with a permanent solution, present something that could be difficult. It doesn't have everything the president wants in it.
SANCHEZThere's a compromise and the president can actually sign that. That's where you're going to see a lot of political maneuvering over the next months.
SHEARBut I think I agree totally that that pressure is there. I think the difficult part for John Boehner is that to the extent that he thinks that he and others in his leadership can craft a kind of approach that is obviously more conservative, more republican but still a kind of permanent solution that the Hispanic community will, you know, embrace, he's also got members of his party, you know, kind of the quote unquote "Tea Party" folks and the other sort of real conservatives on this issue who are going to try to hijack that process and pull it way far to the right.
SHEARAnd so, you know, you can imagine that one of the problems for John Boehner is, what if we try to do something, we put something on the floor and what comes out is so negative to the Hispanic community that we put...
REHMWe lose them.
SHEAR...that we put ourselves in an even worse spots for 2016 and beyond.
CHINNII think something that's very important to keep in mind with all this particular when you're talking about the House is that the Democratic Party in the House and the Republican Party in the House, representatives are representing two very different Americas right now. So, you know, I just looked at the numbers, the -- nothing's final yet -- but if you look at the House majority going forward in 2015, it will be the people they represent, the districts look like they will actually be slightly wider and slightly less Hispanic than they were in the current congress.
CHINNINow that's going by medians and it's -- but, you know, they picked up 15 seats. They picked up 12 total but there are 15 -- they lost three. There are 15 new districts represented by Republicans that weren't -- that will be represented by Republicans at least that weren't represented by Republicans in this congress. And when they added all those new people and all those new districts, the net result is actually that they are less Hispanic and more white. There's the question of how much it is really -- how much skin in the game these congressmen have for doing something on immigration.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." All right. We've got lots of callers waiting. We'll go to the phones now, 800-433-8850. First to Ryan in Houston, Texas. Hi, you're on the air. Ryan, are you there?
RYANOh yes, Diane, sorry.
RYANI was away from my phone for just a moment.
REHMOkay. Go right ahead.
RYANI didn't think I'd be going first. I just wanted to say, I was into the president's YouTube address...
REHMOh, dear. Ryan, I'm losing you. Okay. Let's go to Judith. She's in Fairfax, Va. Hi, you're on the air.
JUDITHGood morning. I am a federal attorney and I (unintelligible) ...
REHMI'm sorry. We're having difficulty...
JUDITHCan you hear me now?
REHM...this morning picking up your phone calls. Let's try Alan in Houston, Texas. Are you there?
REHMOkay, sir. Go right ahead.
ALANI just wanted to point out there was -- the Republican commenter awhile ago was talking about how today's initiative was a little bit broader and -- because it was a lot more people involved. He pointed out that it was -- before it was 3 million and now it's 5 million. I think that's a little bit inaccurate because the previous efforts to fix the immigration system, true, were -- had less people to fix. But, you know, those were reform initiatives that had to go to congress and they became law.
ALANThey -- by definition they are not more broader than what today President Obama is doing. We should not lose the sight that -- or lose sight of the issue -- or the fact that it's just a Band-Aid. I mean, it's actually not addressing the more severe consequences of inaction in the immigration field. So...
REHMAll right. Thanks for your call. Dante.
CHINNIWell, the one thing I was going to say is, we can talk about the different definitions of how broad something is, but the one thing is numbers are a little deceptive because the Hispanic population is so much bigger now than it was in 1996, certainly 1986. So the numbers of people affected are necessarily going to be bigger I think.
REHMAnd go right ahead, Cristina.
RODRIGUEZThe question of size I think matters to how people perceive the extent of what the president has done. But I think it's important to understand that it doesn't necessarily affect his legal authority. And to put it in perspective, the total unauthorized population is about 11 million. So it's still a small percentage.
REHMCristina Rodriguez, professor of law at Yale Law School. Short break here and when we come back, I hope these phones come through loud and clear. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back to our ongoing discussion about the president's order on immigration reform. Here's an email from Katherine who says, "I don't necessary disagree with the action, but I am angry about the timing. The president waited until a new Congress was elected then poked them all in the eye before they even had a chance to take a swing at the issue. If he had done this ahead of the midterm, it would've been bold and Democrats could have used it as a rallying cry." Now, take just the first part of that. Would the new congress have taken an immediate swing at this issue, Michael Shear?
SHEARI mean, I think it's hard to see how an election that increased the Republican majority of the current congress would have led to some kind of, you know, massive rethinking and a desire on the part of the Republican congress to do it. I mean, what that -- although it's a legitimate point, what that question misses is the idea that the congress that exists, which is largely the same one, hasn't done anything for a year-and-a-half.
REHMAnd take us back to what the Congress did in a bipartisan way. And then Speaker Boehner refused -- the Senate did and then speaker Boehner refused to put up on the House floor.
SHEARRight. The Senate bill -- the Senate passed with Republican and Democratic and Independent, you know, coming together -- I think the vote was 68 in favor, which is, you know, a big number for a divided Senate like that...
SHEAR...huge number. And they passed a bill that looked similar to what the president ultimately did by executive order but could go a lot further because there are powers. For example, the president can't increase the number of high tech visas by himself. The congress could and did in that bill. And there were lots of things that the bill did. It moved over to the House and, you know, the Democrats would make the point that you had likely enough kind of moderate Republicans if you added them to all the Democrats that were in the House, to probably pass something. But the speaker wouldn't let it come to a floor vote because he was under a lot of pressure from folks who didn't want that to happen.
REHMAnd wasn't that after President Obama and Speaker Boehner had agreed to a compromise? And then Speaker Boehner went back to his own leadership and they refused to take it off?
SHEARI don't know that they ever came to an actual compromise on an immigration bill. I think there were some discussions and the speaker -- and it looked like the speaker was going to move in that direction. The speaker actually put out some immigration principles that was sort of a one-pager that looked like it would be something that if you kind of turned it into legislation, it might be something the president could sign. He took it -- he took those principles back to his caucus and they erupted in anger and said -- and essentially, I mean...
REHM...tore it up.
SHEAR...tore it up, you know, and said we're not going to go...
REHMAll right, figuratively. Leslie Sanchez, to what extent do you think there was a possibility that the 2015 congress would take this up?
SANCHEZI think there's certainly been a tremendous amount of political pressure to do so. This action though has really ignited the effort in a way that I don't think people anticipated. It is frustrating the amount of political theater that's involved here. I think there's not been a sincere effort by the president to really have reform. He promised -- and we could go back and forth. The president promised this the first 100 days of his administration his first term.
SANCHEZBut that kind of loses the point that while I think this is the -- it's a trail of false hope. And that's what's disappointing to the Latino community. The president makes these efforts but they're temporary efforts. And yes, I think the fault lies on both parties. You just saw Senator Lindsay Graham saying, shame on us as Republicans for not passing the measure in the House. I think now more than ever there has to be some significant reform that is comprehensive, even if they have to do it piecemeal. And it will certainly be an issue. And I think it's one that people want to get rid of before you get to 2016.
SANCHEZAnd I think the last point of that is, the president saw the numbers here too, the recent Harvard Public Policy Study, that showed while Hispanic millennials still support the president in big numbers, it was dropping significantly because they were learning more about the president's vast deportations. So the president was looking at a traditionally Democratic coalition that was starting to break. And we're seeing that a lot more with the Latino community, and especially on the left-leaning Democratic Latino community. The president had to action.
REHMAll right. To Hedgesville, W.V. Hi, David, you're on the air. David, are you there? All right. Let's try for -- yes, David, are you there? Something's wrong with these phones clearly. Okay. Let's try Clinton in Orlando, Fla.
CLINTONHello, Diane. Thank you for taking my call.
CLINTONI think that the need of President Obama to pass a -- to sign an executive order is a symptom of something much more fundamental than immigration. And that is, how much more difficult it is to pass a bill these days than it used to be. It takes 60 votes in the Senate for almost any kind of legislation. And the House now has the rule about the majority of the majority. The speaker can no longer bring a bill to the floor in the hope that even if a majority of his own party opposes it, he can get some votes from the opposite party.
SHEARYeah, I mean, I think that's, you know, part of the frustration that I talked about at the beginning of the show where the president couldn't get this through is this sense of gridlock, not only on this issue but on a lot of things. And part of what is yet to be seen is whether or not the Republicans having the majority in both chambers makes that different.
CHINNIThat's -- I don't -- I'm very negative on this, I guess. I just -- I don't think it's there because I do think that, like, the interesting thing is we have these midterms, and we've been through this before. And, you know, the -- pick up a few seats -- Republicans pick up a few seats in the House, they own the Senate. And then a lot of the times the storyline out of the elections, the American have voted for change. They really haven't.
CHINNII mean, particularly, you know, they voted for change in the Senate, yes, the Senate's in Republican hands. But that wasn't on this issue in particular the problem at all. The House is still the House. It has not -- I don't really think it's fundamentally changed at all. I mean, again, if you look at the numbers, 16 percent of all House seats will be -- Republican House members will be freshmen. Most of those though are replacing Republicans who had been there before. Those people didn't vote for change. And then, like I say, in these 15 seats they picked up, the demographics look very similar. I just -- I don't see any big momentum for change.
REHMAll right. Cristina Rodriguez, one aspect of the president's order that's not getting a lot of attention is the new program on deporting criminals. Why is reform needed there and how is that going to work?
RODRIGUEZI'm glad you raised that because that's actually a pretty consequential dimension of what he announced last week. Basically what the Department of Homeland Security has decided to do is to replace a program that currently uses fingerprint data that state and local police submit to identify removable noncitizens. And advocates have been very critical of the program because it's resulted in the removal of a lot of people who haven't committed criminal offenses but who are minor immigration violators or have committed minor offenses.
RODRIGUEZWhat the Secretary of Homeland Security has announced is that that program will be reformulated to actually focus on people who've been committed -- or convicted of serious offenses that affect national security, and to focus on recent illegal crossers across the border.
RODRIGUEZAnd so that shift is designed to allay concerns in the immigrant community that interactions with police could lead to the deportation of people who haven't done anything wrong other than be in the United States without authorization.
RODRIGUEZAnd it remains to be seen whether that will have an impact, but it's an important announcement.
SHEARYeah, I was just going to follow up on the last point that she made about it remains to be seen whether it will have an impact. I know talking to a lot of the advocacy groups over the last few years, they have alleged a disconnect between policies at DHS, which have already even before this prioritized, you know, more serious criminals against the others. And what the advocates say is, yeah, but that's not trickling down to the ground level partly because of ICE agents that aren't -- that don't want to follow those procedures and partly just because of it's a big bureaucracy. And so it'll really depend on whether or not those new policies really play out on the ground as to whether or not that really has a huge difference, I think.
CHINNIYou know, it's -- I spent some time down in Maricopa County and you go down there...
REHMJoseph Arpaio, yeah.
CHINNI...where Joe Arpaio is, who's an interesting character. The Hispanics who live down there are Spanish speakers, will tell you that they get scared just to get pulled over for speeding. And I'd say, what do you mean? It's like, well, what if I just left my license at home? I'm a citizen but even if they know who I am, the county sheriff will find some way to bring me in. You know, they actually -- the Hispanics down in El Mirage, this community I went to down in Arizona, had a phone tree set up where if there was a sheriff's cruiser in some area, they would call each other and say, avoid the intersection of such and such. There's a cruiser there right now.
CHINNIThat this is -- and these are not people who are -- had any major violation of anything. They were just -- they're worried that they're going to get stopped and taken in.
RODRIGUEZI think one thing I would add to this is that even though the program has been reformulated, there's only so much that can be done when you have a large population of potentially removable people. Any interaction with law enforcement is going to raise a risk that detection will lead to removal. And so it just underscores the points that others have made about the need for a lasting solution. there's only so much that the president and the executive brand can do to address the underlying problem.
REHMSo to you I must say, Leslie Sanchez, you heard Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona advocating a different kind of response to the president's order. Is that likely to gain any traction?
SANCHEZI think overall it's going to be a more measured, kind of controlled reaction from specifically the House. I think that there's a lot of negotiations and a lot of conversation is happening right now. And you're hearing a few of these voices, some more extreme, some talking about, you know, with the lawsuits we mentioned, cutting federal funding, you know, equivalent of like leading to shutdown the government.
SANCHEZI think you're going to hear many different ideas but ultimately I think the reasonable voice is going to lead the way and talk about putting some significant measures -- there's a lot of common ground and putting something on the president's desk that he will sign or not. That's ultimately, I think, where the biggest push is going to come from Republicans is starting to take the reins and put forward something that's permanent. We say this over and over again, this is where the Republican opportunity stands.
SANCHEZAnd also I just wanted to add, there's this misconception this is all about Latino vote. Yes, this is very important to Hispanics. Immigration is the lens by which they view the political parties. But ultimately it matters, this is just not a Latino issue. It's an American issue.
SANCHEZAnd Hispanic voters are splitting -- they really do split. For the last ten years they've split on this issue of immigration reform, some wanting it stronger, some wanting more border enforcement, especially the Hispanics that live in the four -- you know, directly affected by the U.S.-Mexico border. So there's a shift in the Hispanic community but ultimately there's no tolerance for dehumanizing any immigrant or any individual. That, no one can stand for.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm show." And on that point, let's take David in Hedgesville, W.V. Let's try him again.
DAVIDHi, Diane. Thanks for taking my call. Sorry we got cut off earlier.
DAVIDI have a question and an analogy. The question is, why do we assume that these Hispanic American citizens or American citizens -- some of them have been here since before we had a country -- why do we assume that they all support the illegals, ignoring our laws and sovereignty? And the other question I -- analogy I have is, the situation we have with our immigration is kind of like if the U.S. government were to say that they'll allow burglars to operate without impunity, with impunity, without worry of arrest or prosecution...
REHMI'm not sure I agree with that analogy, frankly, but go ahead, Dante.
CHINNIWhat I was going to say is, when you talk about there are differences in the Latino community, I think even as Leslie was saying, you go to some places where people have been there for a long time, been there for generations And they just happen to, you know, be of Mexican background, Latino background.
CHINNIThere are very mixed feelings about this but I think the problem is, I think as Leslie was saying, it drifts into this -- even if they're not completely supportive of everybody who's there, it's the idea that they're not being treated fairly, that they're being called out and that they're being -- dehumanizing is a pretty -- I guess it's a strong term but in some cases it really applies. And they really -- that's where the anger comes from.
REHMWhat do the polls tell us about how many Americans are in support of what President Obama did?
CHINNIIf it's just the executive order -- the poll was done just before -- there's been nothing that's come out since he's actually issued it but just before, the numbers are -- there are people who are opposed. American's are opposed to him doing this on his own. Interestingly, when you go down through the income levels, the lowest income Americans, people making 30,000 or below are the least supportive. And they're actually the least supportive no matter what the immigrant reform looks like.
CHINNIBecause the further and further you go up putting restrictions on, what if we do this, what if we do this, they're always the lowest. Look. For -- if you're making less than $30,000 a year and you're a U.S. citizen, and somebody's talking about...
REHM...you're worried about your job.
CHINNIRight. And you're -- somebody's talking about adding 5 million workers to the pool all of a sudden that are legal that can come out from the shadows, it's scary for some.
REHMSo what happens to the thinking then when people get into these higher income brackets?
CHINNIWell, I think when you get into the higher income brackets, the story's a little different. You don't -- I think rightly or wrongly they don't feel as though they're going to be -- this isn't really going to affect them.
CHINNIRight. It's not -- I'm not going to be competing with these people for jobs, therefore it doesn't really affect me as much. Or maybe even you're an owner or manager of a business and you see, great, this is terrific. I'd love to have more workers.
CHINNICristina, quick comment.
RODRIGUEZI think there are also studies of public opinion on this issue that highlight that the primary concern that people have is cultural. And when you really drill down to the question of why oppose immigration, it's about perceptions of changing culture as much as it is or more than it is about economics. And that's a very important question for Republicans and Democrats alike to confront.
REHMWell, we shall await the new congress, see what happens. Thank you all so much. Cristina Rodriguez, Leslie Sanchez, Dante Chinni, Michael Shear, thank you all. And thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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