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Rep. Gutierrez On Trump's Immigration Meetings With Democratic Leaders


And we begin this hour with politics and the latest on political maneuverings to cut a deal that would protect young immigrants covered by DACA. DACA's the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allowed immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children to be shielded from deportation. As part of the deal, Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are said to have agreed on tough, new border security measures. And that has got some other Democrats upset, including Congressman Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, who is in our bureau in New York this morning, where he's marking Hispanic Heritage Month. Good morning, Congressman.

LUIS GUTIERREZ: Good morning, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Let me start here. Why do you object to legislation that would combine protection for the immigrants known as DREAMers with border guarantees?

GUTIERREZ: Because one has nothing to do with the other. The measure is to take DREAMers - to take 800,000 people who have gone through a background check. And Mary Louise, not easy to go through the background check once. Most of them have gone through a background check twice. What does that mean? Provide your fingerprints. And there's an exhaustive review by the FBI. So they're working. They're teachers. They're doctors. They're engineers. They're every facet of our life. And we don't see why one has to - and when you talk about border security, I was listening very, very carefully - because you do have to listen very carefully to this administration - Sarah Huckabee said border security and internal...

KELLY: She's the White House spokeswoman.

GUTIERREZ: Yes. The White House spokesperson, who I listened to very carefully right after the announcement. And she said border security enhancement and internal security. So that means more ICE agents on our streets. That means a possible militarization of our border. And I don't understand what those - what those concepts mean other than more deportations. And so do you want to trade fairness, justice and issue of equity for the DREAMers for more enforcement which could attack their very moms and dads?

KELLY: So do I hear you correctly? You could live with new border security measures. You just think that should all be negotiated and handled separately from whatever deal is reached on DACA.

GUTIERREZ: So in 2003, now Senator Flake - was Congressman Flake - and I together...

KELLY: Senator Flake.

GUTIERREZ: ...Yes, Senator Flake. He was Congressman Flake. So he and I in the House drafted a bill. It had 700 pages. This was what Senator Kennedy and McCain in the House - it was a bipartisan, bicameral bill. If anybody really cared to go look at it, they would find that the first 300 pages were enforcement. Indeed, if we recall the summer of 2013, in order to get a bipartisan approach in the House of Representatives to immigration reform, $40 billion was the last amendment - $40 billion just for the border.

Even though we understand that when you talk about an undocumented community in the United States, more people will probably come to the United States today legally, overstay their visas, become undocumented than those that are crossing the border. But nobody ever wants to talk about that undocumented community and that border security, which needs to go and happen at JFK, LAX, Miami and our airports across the country.

KELLY: Let me - let me turn you, Congressman, to a related question. And that is the question of the wall, which - Trump promised on the campaign trail he was going to build a wall. He says he's still determined to build a wall. He's also signaled of late that he might be willing to put it off for now. Does that count, from your point of view, as a success?

GUTIERREZ: It is a success. It is a success to the extent that Democrats finally put their foot down and said, we're not going to pass anything that includes a wall. And I think they understand that - the Republican Party understands that. But moreover, I hope the American public understands that we don't need to negotiate these things with Donald Trump and Republicans when it comes to passing a clean DREAM bill. We have the leverage at this point. There are 435 members of the House of Representatives. Ninety Republicans - 90 Republicans - did not vote two weeks ago - refused to vote - for extending the funding of our government, for lifting the debt ceiling...

KELLY: Although, they do have the majority. I mean, in a few seconds, don't you have to compromise somewhere on this?

GUTIERREZ: Yeah, but why? They're not going to vote. In 90 days, the budget is over. Here's what I say. You want to pass a budget? You want to lift the debt ceiling? You do that with - they need Democratic support. They can't do it on their own because they're down to 135 because they have 90 people who only have a destructive back. And they're not going to vote for it. So they need Democrats. Why should we sit down and cooperate...

KELLY: Democratic...

GUTIERREZ: ...With people that are - why should Democrats sit down and cooperate...

KELLY: Sorry to cut you off there. That's Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez of Illinois talking about all kinds of things coming up on Capitol Hill. Thanks so much.

GUTIERREZ: Thank you, Mary Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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