Hardliners Push Back On Bipartisan Deal On Immigration Package
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
So earlier this morning I spoke to Congressman Paul Gosar. He's a Republican from Arizona. And just so you know, when I spoke with him about all this, NPR was at that point not broadcasting the vulgarity that the president is alleged to have used, and we did not use that word in our conversation.
I want to ask you about comments made by your colleague. Republican Congresswoman Mia Love of Utah called on the president to apologize for these comments. She said that they were unkind, divisive, elitist and fly in the face of our nation's values. Do you join her in that condemnation?
PAUL GOSAR: I can't condone, you know, vocabulary that one of - another person actually utilizes in that aspect. But I also understand that the president is not a career politician, that, you know, may say things that are not politically correct in the world of politics.
MARTIN: So you're saying the term that he used is just - it's just politically incorrect. It's not offensive on its face.
GOSAR: It's - I think there's - any word we can use can be utilized in an offensive aspect, Rachel. I think the intent is that when we look at other countries, the lawlessness that is exacerbated by their capacity makes them not something to be wanting to stay. That's why you see such a precipitation of people wanting to come to the United States. So maybe a poor choice of words but, you know, everybody has to acknowledge their comments.
MARTIN: Lots of folks are saying this is more than a poor choice of words. No surprise, Democrats are lashing out. Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal described the comment as, quote, "racism masquerading poorly as immigration policy." Do you understand the racial element of that term and how he used it?
GOSAR: Oh, I do. But I think when you - when we start slinging the racial slurs, you know, I think that's a poor choice on both sides. I think we...
MARTIN: Even though he said he would prefer immigrants from Norway, a predominantly white country?
GOSAR: You know, looking all the way across the board, you know, for immigrants coming to a country from very different statuses - you know, higher-status living that are presented in Norway versus maybe what you would see in Haiti or in parts of Africa. And that's part of the rule of law. You know, I think that was what his comments were, maybe a very, very poor choice of how to place that. But once again, starting to use the racial slur - I think we've used it way more on both sides. And I think it really clouds the issue of having a very good debate.
MARTIN: It is the issue for some people. But I want to move on and ask about the substance of this bill that was brought to the president. Senator Jeff Flake was at the helm of this thing. And it's notable that the president had said earlier - on Tuesday, actually - that he was going to sign anything that congressional members came up with. This is what he said.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: What I approve is going to be very much reliant on what the people in this room come to me with. I have great confidence in the - if they come to me with things that I'm not in love with, I'm going to do it.
MARTIN: So why won't the president sign this deal that a bipartisan group brought to him yesterday?
GOSAR: Well, first of all, being in the House, I don't always appreciate what the Senate comes up with. So there's that animosity as well. So - but I think the president has been very firm up until that point was - is that a framework for immigration had to have border security, had to have a kibosh to chain migration and other aspects...
MARTIN: Which this did. It also just had DACA protections in it to prevent so-called DREAMers from being deported. Do you think that should be included in any immigration bill?
GOSAR: Well, I think what we have to do is be very, very careful and that there's no special status that is given until we look at the bigger problem. And that is - why are we taking 700,000 people and moving them to the front of the line in the victim category? Isn't there a bigger category of immigrants that are the victims that are trying to do it the right way that we ought to really concentrate on and make sure that we have the full status in regards to how do we look at our immigration from top to bottom in a fair and equitable way? I think that's the biggest key because the rule of law is key here.
MARTIN: All right, we're going to have to leave it there. Congressman Paul Gosar of Arizona, member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, thank you very much for your time this morning.
GOSAR: Thanks so much, Rachel.
MARTIN: All right. NPR congressional correspondent Scott Detrow is still in the studio with us. So, Scott, I want to take us back to the beginning of that conversation we just heard with Congressman Gosar. Clearly, Republicans in Congress finding themselves yet again trying to do some cleanup after President Trump says something that they say is just inarticulate.
SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Sure. Pick a tweet, pick a statement from the campaign and from his presidency - there's dozens to pick from - where Trump says something that many people find incredibly offensive. And you have this dance that many Republicans do - especially in the House, where Trump is deeply popular in many House Republican districts - where they want to distance themselves from the statement, from the tweet, but still support the president. And you heard that again there.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Scott, we, I mean, are spending much of this morning - and we have at different times during this presidency - talking about, like, a tweet or a word. There's policy to talk about, too. I mean, this meeting was at a moment when there has been talk for some time about DACA and immigration being a real place of potential for bipartisan compromise. Where do negotiations stand right now? Is it still heading in that direction despite this moment at the White House?
DETROW: Well, after that meeting, Dick Durbin's office said that they still were sticking with the plan of before the meeting. They're trying to sell this agreement that this group of six senators came up with to Congress. It's tough, though, because, well, there's a majority in both Houses who want DACA protectees to stay in this country. Beyond that, it's very hard to reach a compromise that everyone's happy with. A lot of...
MARTIN: I mean, we heard this congressman, Gosar, saying that he doesn't want DACA protections.
MARTIN: So at least he has questions.
DETROW: And the broader push of wanting to have a big crackdown on illegal immigration and to limit legal immigration is something many Republicans in the House especially want to see. And at the same time, you have Democrats who are resentful of the fact that DACA protectees are part of a broader bargain that would lead to policies they don't like.
GREENE: And it's not just immigration. We've been talking about immigration, even infrastructures, things that we might see bipartisan compromise. But you head into a midterm election year where there are a lot of issues where the parties are truly dug in. I mean, there's no guarantee of that.
DETROW: That's right. And often it's the activist voices who speak loudest, who influence primaries and who influence the decisions that members in both parties make. And that's one reason why there has not been a broad bipartisan immigration bill to get to a president's desk in decades.
GREENE: NPR congressional correspondent Scott Detrow. Scott, thanks a lot.
DETROW: Thank you.
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