In the News
An interview with Congressman Scott Peters regarding Trump's executive order, family separation, and immigration reform:
Scott: Thank you for inviting me Alison. It’s a pleasure to be with you.
Alison: So now President Trump said this morning, we heard him earlier on the news, he said we’re going to keep families together but we still have to maintain toughness. What is your understanding of what this executive order would do?
Scott: Well now he has not released or signed it yet so far. But as best we understand it is a short-term fix to declare from now on, or maybe even retroactively, children when they’re detained will be detained with their families indefinitely. And the problem with that is that under settlement law, under a settlement case called Flores in a ninth circuit ruling in 2015, we know that it’s illegal to hold a child over 20 days, to detain a child over 20 days. So, we expect that this executive order, if it’s issued will get an immediate challenge and it will be ruled unconstitutional.
Alison: So, does Congress still need to act, take some new legislation to address this situation?
Scott: Well to be clear, you know, there’s nothing preventing the Trump administration from administering the same law that’s existed for decades in the same way that George Bush and Barrack Obama administrations have administered it. There’s no reason to take this awful, reprehensible step of taking the children from their parents. So, we don’t have to act. I would be willing to act if he wants to have cover, let us fix it. We have endorsed the bill about keeping families together. If that passes, I think it would pass with a veto-proof majority. It would prevent this kind of thing from happening, and if we could do that, we should do that frankly.
Alison: So, the House is expected to, I understand, tomorrow to vote on a pair of immigration proposals. And, I want to just read a statement from our San Diego Congressman Duncan Hunter earlier this week who said: “There are changes in our immigration policies that definitely need to be made. And when policies are presented that start with building a border wall then I am willing to work with any of my colleagues, including Democrats, to resolve the ongoing situation as soon as possible.” That was a quote from Duncan Hunter. So, Congressman Peters are you seeing any opportunities to work with the Republicans on immigration legislation?
Scott: Well, to be clear, just to make sure your listeners understand, we’re talking about DREAMers now. This doesn’t have to do with separating children; so, we’ve been trying for a long time to resolve the issues about what to do about so called DREAMers who are generally younger people who were brought here from another country by their parents when they were young without papers. But, they don’t know any other country and as long as they have been in school, in the military, and out of trouble – no criminal record – under the Obama administration they’ve been able to have status. We’ve been trying to pass bills with Republicans that would give them the ability to stay here to continue their education, serve in the military, and ultimately achieve citizenship. We had a bipartisan bill, the USA Act from Representative Aguilar, a Democrat of California, and Republican Will Hurt of Texas, and we had also a number of Republicans who were willing to join us to force a vote on the House floor. But, we’re two Republican signatures short of getting what we need. So, what will happen this week is we’ll be presented with two bills, the Goodlatte version which is a frankly draconian, anti-immigrant bill which won’t even have the support of Republicans. And, Speaker Ryan’s compromise bill which does include $25 billion for a wall. Think of what a tremendous waste of money that is. That was negotiated without any input from Democrats, and is again not bipartisan in any way so I don’t think it will have very much if any Democratic support.
Alison: San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said this week that the children are being used as bargaining chips. What do you think is the best way to stop this unfolding tragedy and reach some kind of conclusion that will solve that problem even if it doesn’t solve the DACA problem?
Scott: There are a lot of ways to work on this if we were serious about it. This is a cruel, frankly it’s a racist, when you hear a President say bring me Norwegians and not people from the wrong kind of countries you know what this is motivated by. But, first of all, we declare that as American values that you can see on the statue of liberty we’re not going to be separating children from their families. Just stop that first. Second, if there’s a delay in the asylum program, getting adjudication on that. Let’s fix that; we can add more resources to hire more judges so these claims are processed more quickly. Think of what we’re spending – I think we’re spending half a million dollars to house these kids if it’s 700 bucks a day for 2,000 kids. It’s half a billion dollars over the course of a year. We can more effectively use that money by hiring immigration judges. And then frankly we could also do a German Marshall Plan for these Central American countries that would provide some political stability, provide some economic support that would lessen the urgency for people who feel like they have to flee El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala. That would be much more cost effective than trying to deal with the problem on this side of the border. And also much more humane than doing anything like separating these poor children from their families – it’s un-American, it’s evil, it’s got to stop.
Alison: Congressman Peters, thank you very much for your perspective.
Scott: Thank you Alison.