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CEO Quits Trump's Diversity Council Over DACA

Sep 7, 2017
Originally published on September 7, 2017 9:18 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have filed a lawsuit challenging President Trump's decision to end DACA. That's the program that protected young immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. from deportation.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

So that lawsuit is one reaction to phasing out DACA. Here's another from Javier Palomarez. He's head of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and he's a member of Trump's National Diversity Coalition - or at least he was. Javier Palomarez is on the line now.

Good morning.

JAVIER PALOMAREZ: Good morning. How are you, Mary Louise?

KELLY: I'm well. Thank you.

Why quit the president's diversity coalition now?

PALOMAREZ: You know, the decision on DACA was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. When you consider that they are - there are 800,000 individuals registered under the DACA program. Every one of them had to pass a rigorous background check. They've never been convicted of a crime. As we stand right now, 65,000 DACA individuals graduate from high school. Ten thousand DREAMers graduate from college every year. You know, they currently pay in excess of $2 billion in taxes every year. They are ineligible for any kind of welfare benefits or government subsidies of any kind.

Getting rid of them is harmful to the American economy. It will really impede our ability to compete internationally. And doing so would cost the American taxpayer over $60 billion and, over a 10-year period of time, would cost our economy over $280 billion of lost economic output. It simply didn't make sense. And for us, this was that last straw. And we had to take a stand.

KELLY: So you're taking a stand. But let me put this point to you. You joined this coalition knowing that Trump was going to get rid of DACA. He said he was going to do it on the campaign trail. You knew what you were signing up for.

PALOMAREZ: Actually, if you'll recall, about four months ago, he had changed his mind. And he, in fact, said rest easy. We've got your back. We're going to deal with you with heart. I was very heartened by that message at that time. And literally up until the very last minute, we did not know for sure where he was going to land. We literally...

KELLY: You thought you could persuade him to change his mind.

PALOMAREZ: Oh, literally, through the weekend, through Labor Day, we were still talking. And there was still a chance that he might, you know, keep DACA. But at the last minute, he decided to go in this direction, and the path was clear for us.

KELLY: The argument that the White House makes is that DACA was never legal. He says his own attorney general advised him it couldn't be successfully defended in court. What's wrong with asking Congress to find a way to put DACA on a more permanent, more stable legal footing?

PALOMAREZ: I think that could have been done without him taking the position he did. He didn't have to end the program in order to put, you know, Congress to work. And the reality of it is - let's be honest with each other - the only thing more broken than our immigration system, more than DACA, is our Congress. These individuals in the House have been unable to get anything done over immigration now for decades. So for us to put it into that scenario, to punt it into that environment really was unnecessary. And it put these 800,000 innocent people in a very precarious situation.

KELLY: Well, Javier Palomarez, we thank you for taking the time to weigh in on this this morning.

PALOMAREZ: Thanks for having me.

KELLY: Javier Palomarez is president and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and he is a former member of the president's National Diversity Council. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.