Immigration Talks Like Threading 'Tiny' Needle 'Using A Rope,' Rep. Lujan Grisham Says

Jan 12, 2018

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus said in a statement Friday that President Trump’s comments about Haiti, El Salvador and several African countries are “shameful, abhorrent, unpresidential” and deserve “our strongest condemnation.”

Democratic New Mexico Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (@RepLujanGrisham), chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, spoke with Here & Now‘s Meghna Chakrabarti on Thursday about an immigration deal, prior to media reports about Trump’s comments.

Any deal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, that doesn’t give a pathway to citizenship for young immigrants and their parents is a “nonstarter,” Lujan Grisham said.

“It’s a nonstarter for, certainly the Democratic caucus in the House, for all the obvious reasons,” she said. “You don’t want a second-class set of citizens inside the United States. We don’t want to create more issues that we have to address later.”

Interview Highlights

On creating a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients

“There has been a very steady, clear movement by many Republicans that a pathway to citizenship must be included. And so while we’ve got some members that clearly disagree — and [House Judiciary Chairman Bob] Goodlatte is one of them — that’s the minority, and a minority voice here I don’t think wins the day in any any efforts to find a permanent solution for DACA.”

On whether she feels confident a DACA bill could emerge that would have Democratic support, or support from Congressional Hispanic Caucus

“I do, and I think having [California Democratic Rep. Peter] Aguilar as an original co-sponsor of [Texas Republican Rep.] Will Hurd’s bill is a great signal. I want to be really clear that the Hispanic Caucus — well before my time on that caucus, and certainly before my time as chairwoman — has been very clear that a guiding principle for comprehensive immigration reform, and for issues related to Dreamers, is that a wall is a nonstarter. It’s one of those red lines: interior enforcement, more detention beds and a wall.”

On why discussion about a “smart wall” is OK, versus a physical wall

“If it’s technology and drones, and the impact is in areas where you would never put a wall, it doesn’t make any sense, then that’s probably defensible. Roads is an example, equipment right at border crossings that help you both X-ray vehicles and really look for drugs like fentanyl, those are all things that we think improve border security. Because it’s called a ‘smart wall’ is not in and of itself an indication to the Hispanic Caucus, or other Democrats, that were building a 2,000-mile structure. The devil will be in those details.

“I have described this precarious process in this way: We are threading a tiny needle, and the eye of that needle is nearly microscopically small, and I’m using a rope. But I still believe that members of Congress, both sides of the aisle, the House and the Senate, can come together. And I know that many of the folks that we have been working with for months are now ready to identify those details and come together in a meaningful way next week.” Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.