News Brief: DACA's Future, Congress Weighs Harvey Recovery Response

Sep 5, 2017
Originally published on September 5, 2017 11:10 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Today is the deadline for President Donald Trump to decide what to do about the nearly 800,000 immigrants known as DREAMers.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Yeah. There are several news reports now indicating the president will announce he is ending the DACA program. DACA, you remember, stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. And it came to be under the Obama administration as a way to protect the children of people who came to this country illegally. Last week, when President Trump was asked about DACA, here's what he said.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Should DREAMers be worried?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We love the DREAMers. We love everybody. Thank you very much.

KELLY: How to show that love toward DREAMers may become a task for Congress, which is back in session today with an agenda very full - DACA and a whole lot of other things on the plate.

MARTIN: Whole lot of other things. We're going to ask NPR's Scott Detrow about it all. He covers Congress. He's in the studio now. Hey, Scott.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: We know President Trump is going to make this announcement today on this policy - the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA. All signs point to the fact that he's going to end this but with an asterisk, right? Explain.

DETROW: Right. The indications are that he would do this with a six-month delay, which would give Congress time to pass legislation, make it a law and not just an executive action. There've been a lot of questions over DACA's legal standing. It's been challenged before. And several conservative states were preparing to challenge it again. That is why President Trump is making this decision today. That was their deadline. But in this White House especially, word can change a lot between the initial indications and the official announcement.

MARTIN: Right.

DETROW: And on this particular issue, President Trump has been all over the map promising to end it as part of a hardline immigration stance when running for president, but since he's taken office, lots of either vague comments like what we just heard or reassuring comments saying that DREAMers have nothing to worry about.

MARTIN: At the same time, leading Republicans, even Paul Ryan, speaker of the House, has suggested this isn't something the executive branch should tackle. This is a congressional thing. He wants Congress to manage this. Any chance that's going to happen and what would they do?

DETROW: Two long-term trends to think about. One is the fact that repeatedly, in recent years, Congress has been unable to pass immigration reform. Last big time this was attempted, 2013, it passed the Senate - wide bipartisan support - went absolutely nowhere in a Republican-controlled House. The other is that Congress has been unable to act up until this point this year on the big issues Republicans agree on, like cutting taxes, like scaling back Obamacare. So it's hard to see how there's going to suddenly be a consensus on an issue that's so divisive within the Republican Party.

MARTIN: Congress is back to work today. What's on their plate?

DETROW: Number one item is keeping the government running - always a good place to start.

MARTIN: (Laughter) For starters, yeah.

DETROW: They have to fund the government by the end of the month. There's also the issue of raising the debt limit that's due to run out later in September. That deadline might come earlier because of all the spending in Hurricane Harvey relief funding. Congress is probably going to act very quickly passing an $8 billion relief package for Harvey. Now, the White House wants them to tie that to raising the debt limit, but there's a lot of pushback from conservatives on that.

KELLY: And one other thing to watch for - the personal politics. President Trump devoted a fair bit of his summer to taking potshots at fellow Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. So now he needs them to get his agenda passed. And we wait to see how that's all going to shake out.

MARTIN: See how that relationship unfolds. OK, NPR's Scott Detrow, thanks so much for being up for us this morning.

DETROW: Thank you.

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MARTIN: So as Congress begins to wrangle over Hurricane Harvey aid, the southeast Texas region is moving forward as best as it can.

KELLY: And in Houston, specifically, that means preparing for people to get back to work.

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SYLVESTER TURNER: Let me be very, very clear. The city of Houston is open for business. Anyone who was planning on a conference or convention or sporting event or concert coming to this city, you can still come. We want you to still come.

KELLY: That was Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. He was speaking on CBS's "Face The Nation." But Rachel, of course, actually opening for business might be easier said than done.

MARTIN: Yeah. So to get a better idea of what the challenges are on the ground there, we've got NPR's Carrie Kahn on the line from Houston. Carrie, the holiday weekend is over now, right? And businesses that have been closed are going to try to reopen. People are going to try to get to work. What's that expected to look like? I mean, are the roads clear? Can people drive?

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: I think traffic is going to be one of the first obstacles. You know, there are roadways that are still covered in water. I was on the western side of Houston most of the day yesterday. And there's this one tollway - it's a sunken six-lane highway - and it is still completely filled, completely filled with water. So that's - it's just impressive. Not to mention, there's thousands still in area shelters. Spread - people are spread out all over the place living with family members, tens of thousands more in FEMA-paid hotel rooms. They're spread out from here to San Antonio. And many of these people are without cars.

You know, Houston is such a big city. And it's not really known for its great public transportation. Cars rule the world. And a lot of people lost their cars. And they've experienced a lot of flooding. You know, I met this one family in north Houston. They have four cars and five working members, and they're still drying out one of those vital autos. The water went all the way up to the seat, so they've got some challenges. Both the mother and the father of that family work in west Houston, which is still under water in many spots. So it's going to be a challenge to say the least.

MARTIN: Oh, man. So it's not just people who are like those people you spoke with who were trying to get to work, who are trying to get help to dig out of this storm but also the volunteers. I mean, that core of people has got to be strapped at this point.

KAHN: Yes. A lot of people - just tens of thousands of people have been volunteering. But they have to go back to work and make money too. Rent and mortgages are due on the first. You know, I met a lot of volunteers who said they wish they could stay and help more, but they have to pay their bills. You know, if you just look at the two huge city shelters in Houston - the one at the convention center, where I am downtown, still has 1,500 people in it, and the NRG Center, which has nearly 3,000 still there - they're run by an army of volunteers. And many are worried what's going to happen when they have to go back to work.

MARTIN: As we're talking, there's another big storm that's turning away. This is Hurricane Irma. The Caribbean is bracing for this. The southern U.S. is bracing for this. What is the expected path? What can you tell us?

KAHN: Well, right now it's taking straight aim for the northern eastern part of the Caribbean. We're looking at Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The National Hurricane Center says that the storm is still strengthening, and it's already at a Category 4. So that means winds are as high as 150 mph. In Puerto Rico, we're already hearing from authorities who are just warning of what's going to happen to the electricity grid, which is so vulnerable because of the island's extreme fiscal crisis. They're warning that the territory might be without power for three to four months.

MARTIN: OK. NPR's Carrie Kahn reporting on the ground there in Houston for us this morning. Carrie, thanks so much.

KAHN: You're welcome.

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MARTIN: The U.S. and other countries are bracing for the possibility of yet another nuclear provocation from North Korea this week.

KELLY: That's right. Officials in South Korea say they are looking at evidence that the North might test another intercontinental ballistic missile. And then the question becomes whether such a missile could deliver the kind of nuclear weapon that North Korea claims it successfully detonated over the weekend. That was the most powerful weapon that regime has ever tested. And meanwhile, we are hearing powerful rhetoric from the Trump administration. Yesterday U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley told the United Nations Security Council that the time for talk is over.

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NIKKI HALEY: Enough is enough. We have taken an incremental approach. And despite the best of intentions, it has not worked.

KELLY: So if the approach to North Korea has been incremental and if it is not working, what might a better strategy look like? And what's China's role in all this?

MARTIN: We're going to put those questions to NPR's Anthony Kuhn on the line from Beijing. Anthony, China has been important throughout this whole crisis. Has this latest test changed China's calculations at all?

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: The calculations have been changing for a while. I think people saw this nuclear tests coming for a while. But it definitely made people worry. You know, there are a lot of critics here in China who basically say that their government's North Korea policy has been a failure. It's not stopped them from getting the bomb. And now these people are saying, see I told you so.

And their criticism is, basically, that, you know, China is trying not to offend either the U.S. or North Korea. And the more nuclear and missile tests North Korea conducts, the harder that is to do. They just can't make both sides happy. China keeps on pushing for negotiations, but neither Pyongyang or Washington seems the slightest bit interested. So I guess there's a feeling of helplessness, frustration and passivity here as the situation gets worse and worse and China's options just seem to shrink and dwindle.

MARTIN: The Trump administration, though, keeps going back and forth between, on the one hand, praising China and then blasting China, seemingly, in the next breath over North Korea. Is that making it more difficult for them to get Beijing on board in a way that they need them to be?

KUHN: It sure is. I mean, mixed signals from Washington make cooperation on North Korea increasingly difficult. And it's hard for China to know which faction in Washington to listen to and to trust. In Washington, there are people who think that North Korea is the main threat and there are people who think that China is. Just the way, in Beijing, people are divided on whether North Korea or U.S. is the bigger threat.

MARTIN: All right. And now the U.N. Security Council has to think about what their next moves might be. What might those moves be, Anthony? They've tried sanctions over and over and over. What is the next step?

KUHN: I think people are going to suggest cutting off North Korea's oil supply. But I don't think China is willing to go there. They still fear that that might cause the regime to collapse. And they do not want that kind of chaos on their doorstep.

MARTIN: NPR's Anthony Kuhn reporting for us this morning. Thanks so much, Anthony.

KUHN: You bet.

(SOUNDBITE OF EDAMAME'S "I'M - HERE WITH YOU") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.