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There are an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Last year, President Obama issued a series of executive orders which would have shielded as many as 5 million from deportation. Texas and 25 other states filed suit, arguing the orders were an overreach of presidential authority. The lower courts agreed and when the case reached a federal appeals court, it too sided with the states. On Tuesday, the White House announced it will appeal to the Supreme Court. And several of the 2016 presidential candidates have now weighed in. Diane and guests discuss what’s ahead for the president’s executive action on immigration.
- Mara Liasson National political correspondent, NPR and contributor, Fox News
- Josh Gerstein Senior reporter focused on legal and national security issues, POLITICO
- Alan Gomez Immigration reporter, USA Today
- Fernand Amandi Managing partner, Bendixen & Amandi International, a communications and consulting firm that tracks Latino voting trends and behavior
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. On Monday, a federal appeals court ruled that President Obama's executive orders on immigration were unconstitutional. The White House said Tuesday it would appeal to the Supreme Court. Joining me to talk about what's ahead for the president's plan to protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation and what it all means for the 2016 presidential race, Mara Liasson of NPR, Josh Gerstein of Politico.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining us from member station WLRN in Miami, Florida, Alan Gomez of USA Today. If you'd like to be part of the conversation, give us your thoughts, call us, 800-433-8850. Send your email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. And welcome to all of you.
MS. MARA LIASSONThanks for inviting us.
MR. JOSH GERSTEINHello, Diane.
MR. ALAN GOMEZGood morning.
REHMGood to have you all here. Mara Liasson, give us some background on how we got here. Why did the president feel he had to issue executive orders?
LIASSONWell, the president has tried and failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform, which would be a big bill that, at its most controversial part, would do something about the 11 million immigrants here illegally. He tried and failed. Couldn't get it past Congress so in 2012, he did something called DACA, which is he gave deportation relief to a certain group of young people who had been brought here illegally as children, but who met certain criteria.
LIASSONThey were in college or they were in the military. He did that. Then, in 2014, he did, you could say, super DACA. He expanded DACA. He issued another executive order that offered deportation relief to another set of people, parents of illegal -- people who are here illegally, but had children who are U.S. citizens and a whole bunch of other types of immigrants. That is what is in the courts now, this expanded DACA.
LIASSONAnd it's been enjoined. The president, you know, is going to appeal to the Supreme Court. He thinks he can use his executive powers to do this, that he has prosecutorial discretion to decide who to pursue for deportation and who not to, but a group of states are saying, no, you've overstepped your bounds.
REHMSo why didn't those executive orders become law in the first place?
LIASSONWell, they're tangled up in the courts. Oh, you're talking about why didn't he get a legislative solution? Because Congress is split on this. The Republican party, especially in the House, has a very strong, what they could call, anti-amnesty caucus that believes any kind of legalization is amnesty and they couldn't pass it. The Senate had a bipartisan bill, which was past, but couldn't get any further.
LIASSONSo Congress is unable to do it. That's why immigration reform didn't become law legislatively and now, he's doing it by executive order, pieces of it, at least.
REHMSo Josh Gerstein, why did the federal appeals court go along then with the states? What was their reasoning?
GERSTEINWell, they actually had broader reasoning than we saw when this was first enjoined. It was in February that a judge blocked this nationwide and he basically had a technical reason saying that the administration should've put this forward as sort of an official rule or regulation that would have to go through all the formal processes. But when the fifth circuit came in earlier this week, they broadened it even further and they basically said the president and the secretary of homeland security, who oversees immigration matters, don't have the authority to set up this large program, that there are some precedents in the past for giving relief from deportation and work permits to people that are here illegally under certain circumstances, perhaps due to a natural disaster in the country that they're from or due to some expiration of something in the law that would require a volume of people to be deported at once in a way that didn't seem fair.
GERSTEINBut here, we're talking about not 10,000 or 100,000, but potentially millions and millions of people. And the court basically said you can't make a change like that without going through Congress.
REHMSo how likely is it that the Supreme Court is going to take it? How soon will we know if they're going to take it?
GERSTEINI think it's very likely the Supreme Court will take it. You need only four justices out of the nine in order to take a case. The timing is still a little bit in flux. The administration said they're going to file a petition at the Supreme Court. They haven't actually done that yet and the season that we're in at the court is a very tricky one. They're coming up to what is pretty close to the last possible time to try to bring new matters before the court for this term.
GERSTEINRemember, the court sits from October to June. Generally, if you don't ask them to take a case by around now and they don't make a decision until sometime in January. After that point, it's usually too late to get a new case on the docket. In a lot of cases, it wouldn't matter that much to push it over a year, but if you look at the calendar, if you push this over a year, President Obama's presidency is basically over and he has not chance to actually implement this policy where, obviously, injecting it then even more so into the presidential campaign and the question of what a future president will do.
REHMSo you believe, because it takes only four justices, they will take it for this term.
GERSTEINI think they'll take it. It's also a pretty significant federalism case. You've got 26 states on one side upheld by a federal appeals court saying this violates our rights. And not only that, we have this standing as states to bring up this issue, even though the role of states and immigration has been an ambiguous one, in terms of their authority. The feds usually have more power. So it raises pretty significant and important questions and also the question of, you know, what does the president have authority to do as opposed to Congress.
REHMSo Alan Gomez, how big a blow to the Obama administration and its belief in executive authority?
GOMEZWell, it's a tremendous blow. I mean, as Josh was saying, best case scenario right now, is that we get a ruling sometime in the summer of 2016. He's only got a few months left. We're running up on the election. And so for a president who's really trying to cement sort of his immigration legacy, it makes it very difficult. He's got a very mixed record right now. On the one hand, he's been called the deporter in chief by immigration activists because he continues deporting about 400,000 undocumented immigrants a year.
GOMEZOn the other hand, he's trying to do things like DACA. He's trying to implement something like DAPA, this broadened protection from deportation that we're talking about here today. And so for him, that's sort of like the last feather in the cap if you can get it and so it would be a really big blow if it doesn't come through.
REHMSo I gather you've talked to a number of families, individuals, who would have been affected had the executive order gone through. They must have been terribly disappointed to hear about this federal appeals court ruling.
GOMEZAbsolutely. I mean, some of them were expecting this. This was traditionally a pretty conservative circuit, the fifth circuit court of appeals, and so I think a lot of them were anticipating that. But at the same time, absolutely crushed. I mean, I remember back in February when the federal judge in Texas first blocked this program, he did it less than 48 hours before the program was set to start.
GOMEZAnd so you had thousands, possibly. I don't know how many, possibly millions of undocumented immigrants who had carefully prepared their applications, getting old bank statements, getting school records for their kids to prove the relationship there, everything you need to qualify for this program and get that deportation protection, they were ready to go. And then, boom, it gets taken away from them at the very last second. So yeah, it's been incredibly difficult for them.
REHMYou talked with a woman, Maria (word?) Tell us about her.
GOMEZShe is a woman from Argentina, came with her husband in 2001. And, you know, came legally, like a lot of them do and overstayed her visa. And so she's one of these undocumented immigrants who we call visa overstay, which is about 40 percent of the undocumented population so a significant portion. She's been living in Miami, working the very difficult, low wage jobs that you would imagine most undocumented immigrants have to work and she's one of these.
GOMEZShe had two folders ready, one for her and one for her husband. They have a child in the country who is a legal permanent resident and so for them, it's this constant fear that their son will always be able to stay here because he's a legal, permanent resident, but at any moment, they could be deported. So for them, it was sort of this tantalizing thing that was sitting in front of them. They were about to be able to stay here and live here and work here and not worry about having to separate their family and what to do with their son, and then, boom, gone.
REHMOn the other hand, you talked with folks in one small Kansas town and they had some other feelings about the executive orders.
GOMEZYeah. When you look at places like Miami, Los Angeles, New York, you know, traditional cities that draw immigrants, I mean, they're used to having immigrants there and that's sort of the constant centuries old churn of immigrants coming through there. But when you get to places like Garden City, Kansas, which is where I went, this is -- that's where you see this playing out because it's such a recent phenomena for them.
GOMEZThis is a town that, 30 years ago, was 16 percent Hispanic, but then, they opened a couple of meat-packing plants there and it's now 48 percent Hispanic and the majority of population is made up of immigrants from Somalia, Vietnam, Burma, Laos. I can tell you, having covered immigration for a long time, it's usually hard to find people who are really going to be overtly hostile to immigrants. It wasn't that hard in Garden City, Kansas.
GOMEZThey were very open about the idea that these immigrants where changing their way of life. And I spoke to one man who just said, hey, I want to get out of here. So it was very clear how that was happening. I mean, to be clear, there was a lot of people in that city who were embracing this. The school system, a lot of the politicians in the city, the sheriff of the county was very embracing of these immigrants and what they were doing for their community, but at the same time, that just shows you just how incredibly difficult it is for these communities to deal with these populations.
REHMAlan Gomez, immigration reporter for USA Today. Josh Gerstein, he covers legal and national security issue for Politico. Mara Liasson, national political correspondent for NPR. Short break. We'll be right back.
REHMWelcome back as we talk about immigration issue, how they're affecting what may happen at the Supreme Court, when the administration decides to send its appeal to the Supreme Court on an Appellate Court ruling. Joining us now is Fernand Amandi. He's principal of a market research firm based in Miami, Fla. Fernand Amandi, what are you hearing from focus groups and other research groups within the Latino communities there. How are they reacting to the news this week of the Appeals Court decision and the prospective appeal to the Supreme Court?
MR. FERNAND AMANDIWell, what we've seen thus far, Diane, is that within the Hispanic community -- particularly the Hispanic electorate -- what used to be a situation where you might make it a case that they were blaming both the Democrats and the Republicans equally for lack of action on the immigration issue, I think right now all of that focus and attention and blame, if you will, has shifted to the Republican Party from their perspective. This issue has taken on clear partisan lines. And I think it's a problem that the Republican Party is facing. Let's be honest, the last issue that they wanted to rear its head in this 2016 campaign was the immigration issue.
MR. FERNAND AMANDIAnd I think we can now look back and see very clearly that the surprise upset of Eric Cantor losing that disputed race in Virginia -- some folks were unsure if it was about immigration, I think later on we saw it was -- and then the emergence of Donald Trump, whose candidacy and whose rise in the polls has been elevated on the basis of this immigration issue. What it means, Diane, is it's high-wire Republican politics. And it's high-wire politics for the Republicans, without a safety net. Because this issue is one where the polling indicates very clearly, Hispanic voters blame the Republicans. And it's a conversation I don't think they want to have going into next year.
REHMOn the other hand, hasn't there been some indication that Latino voters are becoming more conservative religiously and therefore leaning more toward Republicans?
AMANDIYou know, there is a conservatism when it comes to their social perspectives and social points of view on a couple of issues. But what we have found and I think other studies have shown as well, Diane, is that that doesn't necessarily translate into what they want the government to do. I think they want a more activist government on economic policies, on education policies, certainly on health care policies. And in this case, on immigration policy, there is great unanimity even amongst Latino Republican voters. And I think, again, that's what everybody is so concerned about on the Republican side.
AMANDIIf you remember, Mitt Romney was only able to secure 27 percent of the Hispanic vote, calling for maybe what folks regarded as a more humane version of the deportation context of self-deportation. Now, you have the Republican frontrunner calling for the forcible extraction, even if it means taking away people that were born in this country through birthright citizenship and others. That and the fact that Hillary Clinton has doubled down on immigration, and in a sense maybe said she would go farther as president than President Obama did on pushing for comprehensive immigration reform, I think sets the stage for a cataclysmic potentially fight if you are a Republican that wants to recapture the White House.
REHMAnd to you, Alan Gomez, you spoke about that small town in Kansas. But what about the Democrat picks nationwide. How is that likely to affect how Latinos think about what's going on in terms of how they're going to vote for Republicans or not?
GOMEZYeah, I mean, you talk -- Fernand was talking a little bit about the idea that Hispanics in this country -- yes, there's a very strong conservative strain within them on a variety of issues. But as even Republicans have talked about throughout these past couple of years, immigration is absolutely a gateway issue, as they refer to it. If you do -- if you don't do well on immigration, if you are perceived that you're going to be overtly hostile to immigrants in this country, a lot of Hispanics are going to have trouble listening to your next sentence.
GOMEZAnd so I think that's a lot of what we're seeing right now, where, you know, they might agree with Jeb Bush on a variety of policies, they might agree with Ted Cruz on a variety of policies, but if their immigration tone isn't correct, if they're not going about it the right way, it's going to be hard to sort of embrace that broader message.
REHMSo, Josh Gerstein, how important are changing demographics here?
GERSTEINWell, I think they're very, very important in the long term. In the short term, it's a little more ambiguous. I think a lot of people are fond of saying, you know, there's a tremendous change underway in the U.S. population and therefore that means that unless you have some significant appeal to the Latino community, you're certain to be defeated. I think that is probably exaggerating where things stand right at the moment, especially when you look at the fact that the immigrant population tends to be younger than the population that's already here in the country. Younger people tend, generally, to vote at lower rates. So the picture is a little more ambiguous.
GERSTEINWhile it may be true in a couple decades that it will be impossible to win without x-percentage of support from Latinos, I think what happens in 2016 depends in part on who comes out to the polls. I do think, with someone like Trump out there making these kinds of very provocative statements about immigration. You know, in the debate, he talked about this operation Alan alluded to from the 1950s where about 1.5 million people were forced out of Texas and other border areas back into Mexico, some of them repeatedly. It might not be 1.5 million, it might be a smaller number, moved out again and again.
GERSTEINBut those were pretty brutal programs. You had Trump endorsing those on national television. You wonder if that doesn't drive some Latino voters to the polls eventually in November of next year.
LIASSONYeah. And I have heard -- maybe our other guests can corroborate this -- that Latino registration is actually going up as a result of Trump. But, you know, when you talk about the Republicans have no safety net -- in other words, they're out there and the Trump position is what they're going to be stuck with -- I don't think that Republicans necessarily believe that. I think they do think they have a safety net. And the safety net is nominating somebody like a Marco Rubio or a Spanish-speaking person like Jeb Bush, who has a different tone on immigration, and have this fallback position of work permits -- basically a guest-worker program.
LIASSONAnd Republicans believe that that is what Latinos will be happy to have. In other words, they don't need to go all the way to a path to citizenship. And when you look at the, you know, terrible showing that Romney did among Hispanics -- he lost them 71 to 27 -- Republicans only need to do about 15 points better than Romney to win the White House. They don't have to win the Hispanic vote, they have to do better. So I guess the question is, could someone like Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush, if he's at the -- is the nominee, has a different way of talking -- not only does he speak Spanish, but -- and supports a kind of legalization program -- would that be enough for Republicans?
REHMFernand Amandi, can you respond?
AMANDIWell, I think it all comes down to kind of a deviation of the famous Colin Powell Pottery Barn strategy -- if you broke it, you fix it -- and call it the Pottery Trump strategy. If they nominate Trump, the Republican Party position is the Trump position, like it or not. And unfortunately, in the case of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, right now -- even Marco Rubio, barely in the double digits in the polls, although clearly with some momentum, Jeb Bush in the single digits -- right now, their positions have really not been able to capture the imagination of the Republican electorate.
AMANDII would agree with Mara, however, that if it is a Jeb Bush who is the candidate, perhaps even a Marco Rubio -- although it's waiting to see still what his position is on immigration, because it's changed and evolved over the last couple of years -- I think that make it less of an issue. But remember, also, the Republican ceiling, if you will, for the Hispanic vote right now is a tricky one. Because if you look at registration figures across the country -- and our firm has polled this extensively -- only 16 percent of Hispanic voters right now self-identify as Republican. That's almost an all-time low. You see a great number of independents signing up and those seem to be leaning more to the Democratic Party.
AMANDISo you say, or Mara mentioned that it's only a 15-point improvement. She's right, they don't need to win the Hispanic vote. But if that ceiling is only 30, 35 percent, that's still not going to be enough to pass muster.
REHMJosh Gerstein, what about the H-1B visa issue that was front page, New York Times?
GERSTEINWell, this has all...
GERSTEIN...this has always been one of the subset issues of the broader immigration issue having to do with skilled workers and the ability to bring them into the U.S. or to use foreigners that are in the U.S. to take these kinds of jobs. The New York Times was basically reporting that a fairly small number of companies, many of them based outside the U.S., seemed to have picked up most of these or a substantial chunk of these 85,000 visas that are available every year.
GERSTEINThis has been a very sensitive issue because you -- where there are sometimes debates about immigrants taking jobs that Americans don't want to do, these are generally jobs that many Americans would want to do. It's unclear if they're qualified for them. Sometimes there are shortages of, say, computer programmers and things like that.
GERSTEINAnd you may have heard about these high-profile cases -- there was one out of -- involving the Disney Company out of California a few months back, where people said that they have been trained by some other folks to -- were training other folks to do jobs and then suddenly found themselves replaced by people that are here in a program that is supposed to supplement gaps in the U.S. economy where there aren't enough people to fill certain jobs.
GERSTEINIt's something where sometimes you get a lot of pressure from the tech companies in Silicon Valley, saying we need more of these workers. We can't find workers. We need to bring them in. Yet you always find American citizen computer programmers saying, we can't find jobs. And it's a very, very tricky issue.
REHMAlan Gomez, do you want to weigh in?
GOMEZYeah, I mean, I think that's a very delicate balancing act for Republicans. On the one hand, there's this emerging strain of candidates right now that are adopting what Josh was talking about, this idea of protecting American workers. And that's the way we're going to approach the immigration issue. So it's not so much about the immigrants themselves but our attempts to protect American workers. And that's obviously resonating quite well in the Republican primary.
GOMEZThe problem is, once we transition to a general election, you know, if you're -- if the frontrunner is advocating a program called Operation Wetback -- and that's the one we're talking about here that Trump is pushing for to remove these -- it's forcibly to remove undocumented immigrants -- it's going to be hard to sort of carry that conversation into a general election.
REHMMara, talk about what the other presidential candidates are saying about immigration. Hillary Clinton, for example.
LIASSONWell, Hillary Clinton has said, as was mentioned before, that she -- if she's president, obviously she'll push for comprehensive immigration reform, but she will through executive orders -- she believes she can do even more than President Obama has tried to do. She...
REHMEven though we're now seeing...
LIASSONWell, even though it's stuck in court...
LIASSON...but she's saying she'll do as much as possible. And she somehow -- I guess her lawyers -- she's -- have told her, maybe there are some more things she can do. She also has made citizenship the bottom line. She wants to make sure that the Republicans don't close the gap. She's saying legalization is not good enough. You know, there was a moment -- and Josh talked about this I think -- when John Boehner floated this idea of, well maybe we can pass something where we would get legalization short of citizenship. And Barack Obama seemed open to it. And then, of course, even that was a bridge too far for the House Republicans.
LIASSONBut there is a question -- and this is why, you know, I'm curious as to what Hispanic polling shows -- that Hispanic voters would be -- would find legalization short of citizenship acceptable. Because it would bring them out of the shadows and it would take away the fear of deportation. If that is all the Republicans need to do to satisfy Hispanics, then you can really see a way they can be competitive -- not with Donald Trump as the nominee, but with somebody else -- with Hispanics.
REHMFernand, what do you think?
AMANDII think Mara is right on point. I mean, I think one of the great misnomers of the immigration debate is that, you know, without pathway to citizenship as part of a comprehensive plan, it's just a nonstarter for the undocumented community and certainly for the Hispanic community. Not at all the case. In fact polling that we've actually done ourselves of the undocumented -- and this was done in 2007, when there was a chance of getting, through McCain-Kennedy Comprehensive -- pathway to citizenship was not something that was at all a make-or-break situation. What the undocumented wanted was legal status so they could come out of the shadows. And I think that's where the Republicans are trying to thread that needle.
AMANDIBut it becomes a very nuanced argument when you have -- as Alan, I think, correctly alluded to -- the prospects of Operation Wetback, which is what's coming out of the mouth of Donald Trump as being his policy and, again, you see Donald Trump continuing to maintain poll position. And it becomes, little by little, to the Republican Party's chagrin I would think, the belief about what their policy on immigration is.
AMANDIAnd, Diane, to a question you asked earlier -- you talked about what is being expressed in focus groups, what is being seen in polling? What we've seen from the Hispanic electorate -- and remember it's a Hispanic electorate that doesn't really have tactile resonance with the immigration issue themselves, because by definition they're all citizens, they're all voters -- so it doesn't necessarily impact them directly. But where it does impact them directly is, they see the immigration issue as code -- code language for soft racism, which they perceive to be anti-Hispanic language, anti-Hispanic rhetoric around this immigration issue. And I think Alan touched on it earlier in some of his experiences in some of these towns around the country.
AMANDIThere's a sense of discomfort that this isn't really about not just anti-immigrants, but it's the anti-Hispanic belief that we also see potentially has blowback with other multi-cultural communities...
AMANDI...and that's the Asian electorate as well.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Here's a -- you wanted to comment, Mara.
LIASSONNo, no. He answered my question. I guess...
LIASSONYeah, go ahead.
REHMFind. And we've got a tweet from Alice, who says, what about Cubans with special status lecturing other Latinos about immigration? Isn't there tension between the groups of immigrants? Alan.
GOMEZYes, there is. Yeah. I mean, we have Marco Rubio, we have Ted Cruz, both descended from Cubans. And, you know, Jeb Bush has been joked about as the first Cuban-American governor of Florida back when he was down here because of his popularity among the group. So, yeah, it's -- to make clear, Cubans are the only immigrants that have this specialized immigration law that allows them, basically, if they touch U.S. soil -- it's called wet-foot, dry-foot -- if they touch U.S. soil, they get to stay. And they eventually become residents and citizens. And so, yes, there has long been resentment from other parts -- from other immigrants.
GOMEZAnd, you know, now there's actually a push to change that right now, as we reestablish diplomatic relations with Cuba. There's a growing number of people in Congress who feel that it's time to end that specialized category for Cubans. And so it makes it a little bit difficult. You know, Rubio and Cruz, it was thought, hey, they're Hispanic. They're going to appeal wonderfully to all the Hispanics.
GOMEZBut, yeah, a lot of Hispanics know that they're Cuban and it's not quite the same.
REHMAnd, Mara, what about Bernie Sanders, Ben Carson? What are their stands on immigration?
LIASSONWell, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are pretty much the same. They want citizenship. They are both, you know, on the same page about this. Bernie's -- Ben Carson is no different than most of the other Republican candidates. He has...
REHMHe says, if we don't seal the borders, nothing else matters.
LIASSONRight. So I don't think that he's any different. I think you do have the kind of Kasich, Bush, Rubio -- I don't know what we'd call them, the wets, you know, the softer on immigration, believe that the tone has to change, worried about what will happen to the Party if it becomes a Trumpist Party on immigration. And then you have Cruz, Trump, Carson and the other candidates who are more hard-line.
REHMDo you want to add to that, Josh?
GERSTEINYeah, I mean, I think there are some nuances among the Democratic candidates. For example, Bernie Sanders, at one point, he actually opposed one of the earlier comprehensive immigration bills because he's so close with labor and labor objected to some of the guest-worker provisions in there. You've had, in recent days, Martin O'Malley and other democratic candidates saying some of Hillary Clinton's rhetoric -- using the term illegal immigration -- is something that's offensive to many undocumented immigrants. So they are trying to jockey with each other on this issue.
REHMAll right. Short break and, when we come back, we'll open the phones, your calls, comments. I look forward to speaking with you.
REHMAnd welcome back. As we talk about the ongoing fight over immigration reform, here in this studio, Josh Gerstein of Politico, Mara Liasson of NPR on the line with us. From Miami, Alan Gomez of USA Today and Fernand Amandi. He is a Managing Partner at a Consulting Firm that tracks Latino voting trends and behavior. Let's go first to Tampa, Florida. Richard, you're on the air.
RICHARDHi. My question is how did we end up in the fifth circuit with 26 states appealing? Why didn't we get a more, why didn't the President's attorneys get him a more favorable district to have this heard? And the second one is is if the federal government protects our borders, wouldn't it make sense that they would have authority in making decisions to protect that? So, if any man would say, well, obviously, they're going to rule in favor of the executive branch because of that.
REHMAll right, Josh.
GERSTEINWell, the case was brought by 26 states, including Texas, by the then Attorney General of Texas, Greg Abbott. And if you wonder about the politics of this issue in some states, we should note he's now the Governor of Texas. So, it can be a popular thing to go after the federal government on immigration. They filed the case in Brownsville, Texas. They got a very conservative judge to take the issue. They didn't know for sure they'd get that judge, but it was a 50/50 chance. And any case appealed out of Texas is going to go to the fifth circuit, which is based in New Orleans.
GERSTEINIt happens to be the most conservative appeals court in the country, most people would say. The legal system basically allows somebody filing a case to decide where to file it. There's no way the Obama administration could really have forced it into another circuit once it was filed. But eventually, these questions can be brought to the Supreme Court, which can even out any disagreements between the lower courts.
REHMAnd one listener wants to know whether Texas deliberately delayed its joining in the case to make it even more difficult for President Obama.
GERSTEINWell, there have been some delays in the litigation. I suppose some of them could be attributed to Texas. Others could be attributed to, I would say, fairly serious mistakes the Department of Homeland Security made issuing work permits and so forth after the judge had already instituted his injunction. But the delay here, mainly, that came up, was the fifth circuit. It said it would handle this case on an expedited basis when it was filed back in March.
GERSTEINThe ultimate part of this case was argued in July. The court had indicated that it would be about 60 days till there was a decision. It ended up being closer to four months. And normally, again that wouldn't matter very much. But with this critical window closing to get this in front of the Supreme Court in this term, that had the potential to be a very momentous delay. In fact, the dissenting Democratic judge said in the opinion that came out earlier this week that it was basically inexcusable that the court had sat on the case as long as it had. After acknowledging that it was something that deserved expedited treatment.
REHMAll right, to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Jake, you're on the air.
JAKEYeah, I just wanted to comment on what your panel was saying about the Republican Party and Hispanics. I remember in 2012, seeing a statistic after the election that in 2008, President Obama got 43 percent of the white vote, and in 2012, he got 40 percent of the white vote. Whereas his level among minorities stayed about the same. I almost wonder if maybe they're understating the problem the Republican Party has with minorities. If, you know, that number, among the white population is no longer enough to get them elected to national office.
LIASSONThe demographic trends in this country is that the Democratic coalition, sometimes it's called the rising American electorate, young people, minorities, single women, you know, more secular people, that is the part of the population that's growing. The Republican coalition, older, whiter, more married, more rural, more church going, that's the part of the population that's shrinking relatively. So, even though a Mitt Romney maxed out among the white vote, he, the Republicans are, in effect, fishing in a shrinking pool.
LIASSONThat doesn't mean, as Josh pointed out earlier, that we're at this tipping point. But it's true that Obama's percentage of the white vote keeps on going down. There is a point at which you just can't get elected without a certain percentage of the white vote. But Republicans have a demographic problem. That doesn't mean that demography is destiny. There is, you know, a path to Republicans winning the White House, even in a changing America. But some of these issues have to be handled differently. And that's at heart of the debate in the Republican Party.
GOMEZYeah, and I think, let me give you a great example, I think, to articulate the point that Mara's trying to make right now. There's a representative, Mick Mulvaney, he's out of South Carolina. Absolutely part of that Tea Party when he came up in 2010 during that big wave. But he speaks Spanish. He holds town halls in his district in Spanish. And he -- there's a, you know, I've spoken with him the past about sort of the need to reach out to the Hispanic community. And there was a Frontline documentary recently where it showed him kind of talking a little bit more and to see the anguish in his face as he was talking to his constituents.
GOMEZAnd saying, how do we expect to continue winning if we continue losing the African American vote, the LGBT vote. And by the actions that we're taking right now, increasingly losing the Hispanic vote. And so, to see that, and to see that understanding, it was pretty striking.
GERSTEINAnd I think it's also important, Diane, when we talk about the national statistics, while they're interesting, in terms of poll numbers and the percentages, both for the primary campaign of who's going to get the nomination, particularly on the Republican side, and in the electoral college, the nationwide numbers don't matter that much. If we have growth of a half million or a million Latino voters in California, or even, possibly in Texas, that may not do much to swing anything in terms of the Presidential election.
GERSTEINOn the other hand, it could very critical what the percentages of voters who turn out, say, in Iowa, for the caucuses there. The fact that New Hampshire is a largely Caucasian state. That's very important in the selection of the nominee, and then when you come to the general election, states like Florida, that's, it's the Latinos in states like Florida and states like Nevada that have the potential to swing the Presidential race. How they're dispersed in other parts of the country might be taking our eye off the ball a little.
REHMFernand, do you want to comment?
AMANDIWell, I'm not so sure, because what I see happening, and I think the demographic trends are accelerating so quickly that what used to be, I think to Josh's point, he was correct in that the Hispanic vote used to be concentrated in series of state -- more of a regional vote. What we see more and more this demographic explosion is making it more of a national vote. But where I agree with him 100 percent is when you look at the swing state dynamics, and we're talking about Colorado, Nevada, Virginia, North Carolina, and of course, the all-important state of Florida.
AMANDIIf in those states, the Republican Party brand continues to deteriorate itself, and I think as Alan and Mara point out, make it much more difficult for them to offer an invitation for Hispanic voters and increasingly take on a posture that says, this party is hostile to my interests. The more that happens, the more difficult it becomes and I don't have to tell anybody what happens if Florida alone comes off the table. Don't forget, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and the rise of the non-Puerto Rican, non-Cuban Hispanic voter.
AMANDIThese are the fastest growing segments of the electorate in the state of Florida. And it's increased substantially since 2012. I think that's what this is all about and that's why when Jeb Bush spoke very truthfully in the debate the other night, you know what he said? He said, the Hillary Clinton campaign is doing high fives right now as we take up this issue, because I think some of them know it's political death.
REHMDo you agree with that, Alan?
GOMEZAbsolutely. I mean, you see the changing demographics here in Florida. It used to be, there used to be a time when the Cuban vote in Florida was the dominant one, and it was almost unanimously Republican. But even the Cuban vote has changed dramatically in just the last couple of decades. It's swinging a little bit more Democratic. And so, that's not even a reliable Republican voting bloc anymore. And so, as he, yes, Fernando was saying, you look at places like Virginia that have like 16 percent Hispanic population right now and growing. Colorado is something closer to 30 percent and growing.
GOMEZIt just makes it very, very difficult to, again, push this, push this sort of Trump angle and expect to get anything near the 30, 40 percents that previous Republican candidates have been able to get.
REHMAlan, here's an email question for you from Matt. He says, have you asked illegal immigrants why they chose not to pursue not to pursue a legal path to citizenship in the first place? If so, I'm curious to know what the responses have been.
GOMEZAbsolutely. I mean, that's -- I've been doing that for many, many years. And I can tell you that it comes down to two things. A, they either tried or heard about the incredibly long lines to get into the country legally. And B, they heard through word of mouth or through relatives that were already in the United States that hey, there were jobs waiting for them. And so, this idea that it's solely, it's obviously partly what they're doing, they know what they're doing. They're coming over here and they're violating our immigration laws to get into this country.
GOMEZAnd that's obviously what's driving so much of this animus towards the undocumented population right now. But there's two sides to that. They're not coming here and fighting people to get a job. There's jobs for them and the fact that our country hasn't been able to update our immigration system for over 50 years has left us in a position where there are plenty of jobs for them and plenty of companies that are willing to help them get documents and do things to be able to work here. So, they have the invitation. They have the means. And so, rather than wait the 20 some years that it could take some of them to get into the country legally, obviously, they just choose the other route.
REHMAll right, here's an email from Roger in Arkansas. Promises, promises, he says, Republicans hold both houses of Congress. Most seats of the Supreme Court, and most state Governorships. When is the Democratic tidal wave actually going to hurt them? I'm waiting, says Roger. Mara.
LIASSONThat's a great question, because despite what people fixate on, which are these long term, you could say pro-Democratic demographic trends, when you look at what happened, certainly in the mid-terms, the Democratic Party now holds fewer elected offices than any time since the 1920s. So, the Democratic bench has been decimated in the mid-terms. We do, as is often been discussed, have two completely different electorates in this country. One that turns out in Presidential years, which is younger and browner and more female. And then, we have the mid-term electorate.
LIASSONAnd who votes in these state elections, which are, is more Republican. And that's the standoff in American politics. Republicans can't win enough minority votes to get the White House. Democrats can't get enough white votes to get the House of Representatives. You know, we're kind of at a standoff. And Democrats have a real problem in these down ballot, kind of pipeline races, but it doesn't -- and that's what gridlock is about.
GERSTEINWell, I agree with that. I agree with what Mara said. That's where the standoff has come from. From the two different electorates that you're seeing in these two different sets of elections. And it's a very important question. If the Republicans remain in control of Congress, what would the next Democratic President be able to do if this Supreme Court decision is made and comes down that the President doesn't have the authority to do this kind of a large executive action? Whatever Hillary Clinton's lawyers might have told her, it's the Supreme Court that's going to make the ultimate decision.
GERSTEINAnd she may have few options on the table if this decision were to go against the President's power.
REHMAnd that decision would come this June, this coming June, just before the election.
LIASSONYeah, you know, and there's another question, which is, what are the prospects for legislation under a new administration? You know, there are two schools of thought in the Republican Party. One, which was expressed by that autopsy report that was done after the 2012 elections, which is the party should embrace comprehensive immigration reform if it ever hopes to appeal to minority populations. There's another school of thought that says, we, Republicans don't get anything, politically, unless comprehensive immigration reform is passed with a Republican in the White House.
LIASSONBecause otherwise, all the credit goes to Democrats, and you're just manufacturing a lot of Democratic voters. So, there's no point passing it until we have the White House.
REHMAnd you're listening to The Diane Rehm Show. Let's go to Sirrari in Grand Rapids, Michigan. You're on the air.
SIRRARIHi Diane. Thanks for having me on.
SIRRARILong time visitor.
SIRRARII was just calling, making a comment about what your panel said about the undocumented community wanting to come out of the shadows. I mean, I'm a naturalized American citizen from Mexico, and that's all my loved ones want. They want to be able to drive their cars without the fear of being pulled over and deported. They want to be able to work. That's why we come to this country. We don't come to this country to commit crimes. We don't come to this country to take jobs. We just want to be able to work to provide our families a better life. Thank you for taking my call.
REHMAll right. And thanks for calling. Alan Gomez, do you want to comment?
GOMEZYeah, I mean, she raises a great point. We've been talking about this a little bit today. The idea that, you know, within Congress, throughout the immigration debate over the last few years, there has been that Democratic stance of pathway to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants or we're not even talking about this. But when you get on the street, as the caller was just making the point, they're not that interested in that. Yes, there's some of them that have been here so long. There's -- right now, 60 percent of undocumented immigrants have been here for at least a decade.
GOMEZSo, the longer they're here, there is absolutely a big portion of them that want to become citizens and feel that patriotic urge. And they feel that this is their country. So, they want to be part of it. But I can tell you for most of the ones that I've ever spoken to, yeah, they just want to get to work and back without looking over their shoulder the whole time. They want to be paying taxes, they want to be doing the basics that they have to do to be a part of this country. But the citizenship thing, yeah, that's like an icing on the cake that they'd like. But it's not necessarily their driving force.
GERSTEINDiane, the other point I'd like to make is that with respect to this legal fight that's going on right now over the President's DAPA and DACA programs. It's really over this issue of work permits. The notion of deporting large volumes of people, as Mara has indicated, there's no budgetary way to do that at the moment. There's no money that's been appropriated to remove more than the three to four hundred thousand people a year who are moved out. And even the litigation that's going on doesn't address the prioritization of removing, say, criminals or other people that are being disruptive or pose some kind of danger to society.
GERSTEINIt's really all about work permits and whether people have the right to work, which is tremendously important question of what wages they get paid, for example, if they can legitimately go to an employer and apply for a job if they're being paid out the back door under the table, they're never going to make the kind of money they can if they're working legitimately with a legal work permit.
REHMAnd final question, Mara, an email from Lloyd in North Carolina. Did President Reagan give amnesty to immigrants? What was the ruling on that?
LIASSONWell, President Reagan did, and that is the source of the Republican argument about why amnesty is a bad thing. Because they say Ronald Reagan gave amnesty to a lot of people, but the borders weren't closed. That bill was supposed to do two things, secure the border, and then give amnesty to people who were here. But, the second part never happened. That's why the Republican battle cry in this debate is border security first. After the border is secured, then maybe we can talk about legalization.
REHMMara Liasson of NPR, Josh Gerstein of Politico, Alan Gomez with USA Today, and Fernand Amandi -- he is with a consulting firm that tracks Latino voting trends and behavior. Thank you all.
AMANDIThank you, Diane.
GOMEZThank you very much.
REHMAnd thanks all for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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