KTEP - El Paso, Texas

Morning News Brief

Jun 18, 2018
Originally published on June 18, 2018 9:41 am
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We begin about 40 miles outside El Paso, Texas, where the federal government is holding around 100 detained migrant boys in a desert tent encampment.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Yeah, some of the boys were detained after they arrived alone at the southern border. Others were separated from their families after they were taken into custody. These boys represent just a small fraction of the more than 10,000 immigrant children and adolescents who are held by the U.S. government. That number has dramatically expanded under President Trump because of his administration's policy to separate families and a similar policy - related policy having to do with aggressive criminal prosecution of border crossers.

INSKEEP: John Sepulvado of our member station KQED was at a Father's Day protest outside this facility that's outside El Paso. Hey there, John.

JOHN SEPULVADO, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: So from what you were allowed to see, what is this facility like?

SEPULVADO: So there is a very long singular white tent that's industrial-grade that just kind of rises up to the middle of the desert. And you can see it from about 200 yards away or so. And it is - essentially it looks like something you would see after a hurricane or other type of natural disaster. Or if you've ever watched, like, "Contagion" or some type of sci-fi thriller movie that - where...

INSKEEP: OK, emergency facility, got it.

SEPULVADO: Exactly. Exactly. And it's run by the same people who would do that as far as the contract. And on the American side, it's behind two double-barreled fences. It's behind two double-barreled fences, and it's behind a mound of dirt. So you basically - you can't see anything. Now, on the Mexican side it is completely open. And I've been told that that was done on purpose. They don't want people from the American side to be able to see in. They do want people - because this is right against the border on the Mexican side - to be able to see in because this tent is essentially a deterrent letting people know that this is a place they can end up if they illegally cross into the United States.

INSKEEP: Your kids will end up behind barbed wire in this tent, in effect. And just to be clear, these are people - at least some of them - who were separated from their parents, right?

SEPULVADO: Yeah. We've confirmed that - KQED confirmed that these were not unaccompanied minors, as Health and Human Services, which says - which is running the camp says it was. These are folks who have been separated by federal authorities.

INSKEEP: OK, so there was a protest there. I want to note that. People marched on Sunday. You saw that. It was led by a Democratic Senate candidate in Texas, Beto O'Rourke. And he had some information about this facility. What's he saying?

SEPULVADO: Well, he confirmed our reporting. So we had heard from several sources that there was up to 4,000 people, 4,000 - I shouldn't say people - teenagers who are going to be brought to this facility. The congressman confirmed that. He confirmed the unaccompanied minors detail. And he confirmed that much of this has not been done with any community input. In fact, there's a lot of secrecy behind this, just as there's that dirt berm I was telling you about, Steve. Nobody's talking to the community about that. So there's a lot of concern about how many people would be there. This would essentially triple the town of Tornillo where it's located.

INSKEEP: Oh, triple the population. John, thanks very much.

SEPULVADO: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's John Sepulvado.

Maybe nobody is talking there about the facility, but people are talking elsewhere in a big way. And NPR congressional correspondent Scott Detrow has been following the congressional response to the president's immigration action. Scott, good morning.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: OK, so we've heard Democrats are protesting. A Democratic congressman and Senate candidate is actually protesting at that tent in Texas. What about Republicans?

DETROW: You know, this has been an interesting development here. We've heard increasingly blunt criticism from people who are usually either Trump allies or who do not weigh in on politics that much. Former first lady Laura Bush wrote an op-ed calling this policy immoral. New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, probably the most high-profile American conservative voice in the Catholic Church, he said this is unjust, un-American and unbiblical.

Even Franklin Graham, usually a pretty staunch ally of President Trump and other Republicans, has criticized this in blunt terms. The president has continued to insist that Democrats in Congress are to blame for this policy, but that is not true. This is a choice made by the Trump administration earlier this year to take this approach.

INSKEEP: And we have noted that there is actually a wide range of evangelical groups, other religious groups - Timothy Dolan is by no means the only one who's spoken out about this. And lawmakers have said they're going to do something about it. But what is it they're going to do?

DETROW: Yeah, this is going to be part of a big week where immigration had been already the focus on Capitol Hill this week. This puts even more pressure on House Republicans moving forward with two different bills. One is very conservative. The other is being framed as a compromise bill, but it's still a compromise on Republican terms. It's made to get moderate Republicans on board, not Democrats. It has a permanent path for people in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a lot of border security. There is language to address this in the bill. But it does not keep children from being detained. Essentially what it does is says if parents are detained, as they have been, to be prosecuted...

INSKEEP: Yeah.

DETROW: ...That children would be allowed to be with them but still within ICE detention facilities.

INSKEEP: So let's be really clear about this. This is a zero-tolerance policy, meaning that people are prosecuted, adults are prosecuted regardless of whether children would be harmed in the effect of the parents being held. They're not going to change that. But they've got this language that would say, you can - your kid can be clapped in jail with you or something to that effect in detention, in ICE detention.

DETROW: Right. The parents and children would not be separated, but there would still be detention going on.

MARTIN: You know, it's interesting. You talk about the number of people who are outside politics, but - Republicans who are speaking out on this. But there are some lawmakers, Republicans in Congress, allies of President Trump - Lindsey Graham for one speaking out, saying - making it clear that even though there might be these efforts in Congress, he says, quote, "President Trump could stop this policy with a phone call." So even people in his own party clearly saying, listen, President Trump; if you don't want this to happen, you could stop it.

DETROW: And there are several meetings in the next few days between President Trump and Republican lawmakers. This is certainly going to come up.

INSKEEP: Is it clear to you, Scott, that this is being used as leverage by the president? The president is OK with this chaos because he wants it to be solved as part of a larger immigration bill that includes things he wants like funding for the wall.

DETROW: Well, other members of the Trump administration are trying not to frame it that way. President Trump is repeatedly framing it exactly that way.

INSKEEP: Scott, thanks very much.

DETROW: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Scott Detrow.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: OK, different story but the same topic in a way. Germany's government is in danger this week of being brought down over immigration.

MARTIN: Right. This is the same issue that almost cost Angela Merkel her job, the chancellorship, during last fall's elections. The political fight in the moment centers on whether or not Germany should close its borders. This could lead to a breakup of Merkel's conservative alliance, the first since 1976, and leave her without a majority in Parliament.

INSKEEP: NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is in Berlin and covering this story. Hi, Soraya.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: So how much trouble is she in, Merkel?

NELSON: This is pretty much up there. I mean, we have to remember that she has faced a number of crises over her policies. But this time it's very serious because we're talking about members within her own conservative alliance who are talking about breaking up, splitting up if you will, and - which would in effect - or which would probably lead to the government collapsing pretty quickly.

INSKEEP: Oh, because it was already a rather weak coalition. And let's remember the dynamics here. There was a very right-wing party that gained a lot in the recent elections. There's a fairly right-wing party - correct? - that is with Merkel. But they don't want to be outflanked, so they're trying to be really tough on immigrants.

NELSON: Yes. In fact, these Bavarian conservatives who are a little - I mean, they share a lot of conservative policies, but - except in the social area. But they've become a lot more far-right because they are facing such strong opposition from Alternative for Germany, which is the far-right party that is now the main opposition in the German Parliament. They're running against them in local elections in Bavaria this fall. And they stand - they being Merkel's Christian conservative allies in Bavaria - stand to lose their absolute majority.

So they've shifted quite a bit to the right and taken her on in her refugee policy. And now they basically are saying, forget the EU; forget whatever. We want to close the borders now to asylum-seekers whose fingerprints are in the database, who in other words have come in through other EU countries or who've been rejected for asylum. They should no longer be allowed to come into Germany.

INSKEEP: Well, let's remember the broader background here. There was a time when Merkel was much more open and Germany was much more open to refugees from the Middle East, from North Africa and took in something - more than a million people. But there's been all of this political response and resistance. Has Merkel already changed her policies even if she manages to keep her job?

NELSON: She has certainly changed position. She's not in that much disagreement with the CSU over what they want to do. She just wants the European Union to come on board and create a joint policy. She doesn't want to see what's happening in other countries where you have Hungary or Austria making their own decisions about what should happen with borders. She feels and a majority of Germans agree that there should be a European response, problem being of course that she hasn't been able to garner that cohesive European response. And that's not looking too likely either when the European Union meets at a summit in a couple weeks.

INSKEEP: So how soon will she know if she keeps her job?

NELSON: Well, I think at least a couple weeks. It seems like the conservatives in Bavaria are going to give her at least that long.

INSKEEP: Soraya, thanks very much as always, pleasure talking with you.

NELSON: You're welcome, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson in Berlin.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE DAKTARIS' "MUSICAWI SILT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.