IMMIGRATION AND RACE

The fight over immigration in the U.S. reaches critical mass as President Trump allegedly asks lawmakers why the U.S. is accepting immigrants from “s***hole countries,” and protests take place in New York City as I.C.E. detains a prominent immigration activist. And, as the President vows to stomp out the deadly MS-13 gang, we learn about the Long Island teens at the center of the fight, who are being forced to choose between joining the gang or being sent back to their homeland. Jonathan Blitzer, staff writer at The New Yorker, joins us to discuss these issues.

Aired on January 12, 2018. 

TRANSCRIPT

> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'METRO FOCUS.'

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

WE BEGIN WITH A HEATED DEBATE OVER IMMIGRATION.

WITH THE PRESIDENT LAST NIGHT ACCUSED OF ASKING WHY HE SHOULD ACCEPT IMMIGRANTS FROM S-HOLE COUNTRIES.

THE COMMENTS HE WAS ACCUSED OF CAME AFTER PROMINENT RIGHTS LEADER WAS AGENTS WITH A ROUTINE CHECK YESTERDAY HERE IN NEW YORK.

HIS ARREST SPARKED PASSIONATE PROTEST WITH TWO LEADING MEMBERS OF THE NEW YORK CITY COUNSEL ARRESTED AT THE RALLY.

WILLIAMS WAS CAPTURED AS POLICE CUFFED HIM AND RODRIGUEZ CLAIMS HE WAS HELD BY AN NYPD OFFICER.

MEANWHILE IN WASHINGTON, THE REMARKS REPORTEDLY MADE BY THE PRESIDENT CAME DURING A CLOSED DOOR MEETING WHEN DISCUSSING A DEAL.

'THE WASHINGTON POST' REPORTED THAT WHEN DISCUSSING THE POTENTIAL OF PROTECTING IMMIGRANTS FROM HAITI, EL SALVADOR AND AFRICAN COUNTRIES, TRUMP RESPONDED BY ASKING WHY ARE WE HAVING ALL THESE PEOPLE FROM S-HOLE COUNTRIES COME HERE?

THE PRESIDENT LATER DENIED THE REMARKS.

THE QUESTION HITS CLOSE TO HOME WITH THE EMERGING OF THE MS-13 GANG ON LONG ISLAND WHOSE ROOTS LIE IN THE COUNTRY.

PRESIDENT TRUMP VISITED THIS SUMMER WHERE HE OUTLINED ADMINISTRATION'S EFFORTS TO FIGHT THE GANG.

OUR HEARTS AND OUR NATION GRIEVE FOR THE VICTIMS AND THEIR FAMILIES SINCE JANUARY 16.

THINK OF THIS, MS-13 GANG MEMBERS HAVE BRUTALLY MURDERED 17 BEAUTIFUL YOUNG LIVES IN THIS AREA ON LONG ISLAND ALONE.

THINK OF IT.

THEY BUTCHERED THOSE LITTLE GIRLS.

THEY KID SNAP, THEY EXTORT, THEY RAPE AND THEY ROB.

THEY PRAY ON CHILDREN.

THEY SHOULDN'T BE HERE.

THEY STOMP ON THEIR VICTIMS.

THEY BEAT THEM WITH CLUBS.

THEY SLASH THEM WITH MACHETES.

AND THEY STAB THEM WITH KNIVES.

THEY HAVE TRANSFORMED PEACEFUL PARKS AND QUIET NEIGHBORHOODS INTO BLOOD-STAINED KILLING FI FIELDS.

JONATHAN BLITZER PUBLISHED A PIECE ON THE CHAOS.

JACK FORD HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO SPEAK WITH HIM AND BEGAN BY ASKING WHAT COMPELLED HIM.

WE FOCUS ON IMMIGRATION CRISIS AS THOUGH THEY ARE THINGS THAT ANNOUNCED THEMSELVES AT OUR DOOR AND IN PACTFACT, THE CASE EL SALVADOR QUESTIONS ME.

THE PATH LARGELY HAVE TO DO WITH AMERICAN POLICY AND SO THIS GANG FOR INSTANCE IS A GANG THAT BEGAN IN THE U.S. AND CENTRAL AMERICA BECAUSE THE U.S.

DEPORTED SOME GANG MEMBERS IN MASS BACK TO CENTRAL AMERICA IN THE 1990s.

THEY FOSTERED THE GROWTH STARTED HERE AS YOU SAID AND SO THERE INAND OUR POLICIES FOSTER THE GROWTH.

IT'S A SITUATION WHERE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF KIDS COME TO THE U.S. BORDER SEEKING REFUGE FROM THE GANGS AND THEY ARE HERE AND WE OFTEN, THE POLITICIANS OFTEN STRIKE THIS VERY AGGRESSIVE TONE AND RHE RHETORIC.

WE ARE LARGELY RESPONSIBLE FOR CREATING CRISIS NOW.

THE DILEMMA AND TALKING IN THE LEGAL SENSE ABOUT THE IDEA THAT WE'RE SAYING, WE BEING LAW ENFORCE TCE ENFORCEMENT, HELP US TO CONVICT THESE BAD GUYS AND YET, THEY ARE IN A VERY DIFFICULT POSITION, THESE VICTIMS.

WHY IS THAT SO?

WELL, THEY LIVE IN COMMUNITIES WHERE THEY RUB SHOULDERS WITH GANGSTERS EVERY DAY.

THEY GO TO SCHOOL WITH THEM.

THEY ARE COMPETING FOR JOBS WITH THEM.

SO THEY LIVE IN A WORLD IN WHICH THESE GANG MEMBERS ARE PRESENT AT ALL LEVELS OF THE DAY AND THEIR PARENTS OFTEN, THE VICTIMS OF THESE GANGSTERS AND GANG VIOLENCE ARE OFTEN PEOPLE WHO ARE UNDOCUMENTED THEMSELVES.

THEY ARE SCARED IF THEY COME FORWARD AND SPEAK TO LAW ENFORCEMENT, THEY WOULD RUN THE RISK OF BEING ARRESTED AND DEPORTED.

IS THAT A LEGITIMATE FEAR?

IT FRANKLY IS.

ONE OF THE THINGS THAT STRIKES ME THE MOST ABOUT THAT CLIP FROM TRUMP THAT YOU RAN IS I'VE SEEN THAT SPEECH TOO MANY TIMES, BUT, YOU KNOW, HE TALKS ABOUT THE VICTIMS BEING 17 BEAUTIFUL VICTIMS IS THE LANGUAGE HE USED.

MOST OF THE VICTIMS, IN FACT, ALMOST ALL OF THE VICTIMS ARE IMMIGRANTS THEMSELVES IN LONG ISLAND.

WE INVOKE BEAUTIFUL VICTIMS, THE PROBLEM IS THE VERY PEOPLE WHO ARE VICTIMIZED BY THE GANGS TEND TO BE TARGETED AS AN ATTEMPTED SOLUTION TO THIS PROBLEM.

YOU FOCUS ON A COUPLE OF DIFFERENT AREAS AND DIFFERENT PEOPLE.

ONE OF THE PEOPLE YOU FOCUS ON IS A YOUNG WOMAN BY THE NAME OF ELAIN ELAINA.

TELL ME ABOUT HER AND WHY SHE'S AN IMPORTANT PART OF THE STORY.

HER STORY, A 16-YEAR-OLD GIRL.

AMERICAN CITIZEN.

HER PARENTS ARE SALVADOR IMMIGRANTS.

GREW UP ON LONG ISLAND.

WENT TO A LOCAL HIGH SCHOOL.

AT THAT HIGH SCHOOL, SHE WOUND UP IN ESL CLASSES FOR PEOPLE WHO DON'T SPEAK NATIVE ENGLISH, EVEN THOUGH SHE SPEAKS FLUENT ENGLISH.

A LOT OF SCHOOLS ARE OVER BURDENED.

THEY HAVE LIMITED RESOURCES.

THEY HAVE LIMITED MONEY.

SHE'S AN EXAMPLE OF SOMEONE WHO SLIPPED THROUGH THE CRACKS.

SHE FINDS HERSELF IN THIS ESL PROGRAM AT HER LOCAL SCHOOL, AN AMERICAN CITIZEN THAT SPEAKS FLUENT ENGLISH AND MEETS A YOUNG BOY A LITTLE OLDER THAN HER.

TURNS OUT HE'S A MEMBER OF MS-13.

WHEN HE FIRST MEETS HIM, SHE DOESN'T REALIZE THE EXTENT.

THINKS HE IS TRYING TO IMPRESS HIV HER AND BE TOUGH AND A FEW MONTHS LATER SHE REALIZES THE DANGER.

HE BEATS HER, THREATENS HER FAMILY.

WHEN SHE SAYS LOOK, I DON'T WANT ANYTHING TO DO WITH YOU ANYMORE.

HE SHOWS UP AT HER HOUSE AND FOLLOWS HER BROTHER.

ALL KINDS OF THREATS LIKE THIS.

EVENTUALLY, HE KIDNAPS HER AND SHE SPENTS DS THREE MONTHS IN CAPTIVITY IN LONG ISLAND AND ESCAPES AND SLOWLY TRIES TO PUT HER LIFE BACK TOGETHER.

WHAT IS MOST STRIKING ABOUT HER CASE, SHE GOES BACK TO SCHOOL AND TRIES TO MAKE NEW FRIENDS AND MEETS ANOTHER PERSON WHO SHE ENDS UP GETTING VERY CLOSE TO WHO, LIKE HER EX-BOYFRIEND, CAME TO THE U.S. AS A SO-CALLED UNACCOMPANIED MINOR.

IT TURNED OUT THEY ARRESTED HER NEW BOYFRIEND THAT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE GANG BECAUSE AT THAT POINT THEY WERE ENGAGING IN WIDE-SPREAD RACIAL PROFILING.

HE WAS SEEN ASSOCIATING WITH KNOWN GANG MEMBERS.

AGAIN, THEY ALL GO TO THE SAME SCHOOL.

HE WAS SEEN WEARING CLOTHES SUGGESTIVE OF GANG MEMBERSHIP.

WHAT TEENAGER WON'T WEAR CERTAIN KINDS OF CLOTHES.

SHE WAS IN THIS PERVERSE, IN THIS IRONIC SITUATION OF HAVING BEEN VICTIMIZED BY THE GANG FINALLY THROUGH HER OWN STRENGTH CRAWLING OUT OF THAT, CLAWING HER WAY.

I MEET SOMEBODY WHO ISN'T A GANG MEMBER AND GETS PULLED UP IN THE VORTEX ANYWAY.

THE CIRCULARITY OF THESE CIRCUMSTANCES, THAT'S WHAT I'M TRYING TO CAPTURE.

LAW ENFORCEMENT IS SAYING LOOK, WE WANT TO ADDRESS THIS PROBLEM IN YOUR COMMUNITY.

WE'LL TAKE EVERY MEANS NECESSARY TO TRY TO RID THIS COMMUNITY OF LOCAL GANGSTERS AND THE PROBLEM IS IN THEIR CRACK DOWN, THEY END UP RUINING THE LIVES OF THE PEOPLE WHO ARE VICTIMIZED BY THE GANG IN THE FIRST PLACE.

WHAT DO YOU THINK THE RESPONSE WOULD BE TO PEOPLE WHO LOOK AT THAT AND SOMEONE SAYS LOOK, YOU KNOW WHAT, IF WE GET RID OF THIS GANG, IT'S BECOME SO PERVASIVE AND EVERY ASPECT OF THESE PEOPLE'S LIVES.

YOU KNOW WHAT?

WE GOT TO COME DOWN HEAVY AND MIGHT MEAN FOLKS WILL BE COLLATERAL DAMAGE.

WHAT'S THE ANSWER TO THAT?

I WOULD SAY ON A VALUES LEVEL THAT'S CONTRARY TO WHAT WE ARE AS A COUNTRY, AND I THINK ONE OF THE WAYS IN WHICH WE AS AMERICANS TEND TO THINK OF THAT KIND OF THING COULDN'T HAPPEN IN THE U.S., LAW ENFORCEMENT COULDN'T PICK UP THESE PEOPLE AS COLLATERAL DAMAGE IS BECAUSE OUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE LEGAL SYSTEM THAT WE KNOW THAT CRIMINAL DEFENDANTS HAVE LEGAL PROTECTIONS.

THE PROBLEM IS THEY DON'T.

THEY ARE ACTUALLY, THIS IS SPECIFICALLY WHAT I THINK IS CRAZY ABOUT THIS STORY, YOU HAVE LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT ADDRESSING THIS PROBLEM.

TYPICALLY IF LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT WERE TRYING TO DISMANTLE A GANG THAT HAS A STRANGLE HOLD ON THE COMMUNITY, THEY HAVE TO PUT TOGETHER A RATHER COMPLEX CASE WITH LOCAL PROSECUTORS, IT TAKES A LOT OF COORDINATION, A LOT OF RESOURCES.

WHAT THEY ARE DOING INSTEAD WITH MS-13 BECAUSE THE COMMUNITY AFFECTED IS AN IMMIGRANT COMMUNITY IS BRINGING IN I.C.E.

I.C.E., IMMIGRATION, CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT DOESN'T FOLLOW THE SAME PROTOCOLS BECAUSE THE PEOPLE THEY ARE GOING AFTER IS GUILTY OF ONE THING, BEING IN THIS COUNTRY ILLEGALLY.

THERE ARE VERY MANY INSTANCES AND INCREASINGLY WELL-DOCUMENTED ISIS IS PICKING PEOPLE UP ON SUSPICIONS OF GANG MEMBERSHIP.

THEY DON'T BELONG TO THE GANG.

PEOPLE CAN VOUCH FOR THEM.

ALL OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES THAT LED TO THEIR ARREST CAN BE EXPLAINED AWAY OR QUALIFIED AND YOU HAVE I.C.E. SAYING EVEN THEN, THAT'S NOT REALLY OUR PROBLEM.

THE FACT IS, THEY ARE HERE ILLEGALLY AND IT'S OUR JOB TO GET THEM OUT.

IN THESE COMMUNITIES, A BIG PART OF THIS DRAMA HAS TO DO WITH KIDS THAT CAME HERE AS UNACCOMPANIED MINORS.

THOSE KIDS WHEN THEY CAME, THEY ARE 8,600 OF THEM ON LONG ISLAND ALONE BUT ACROSS THE COUNTRY, THERE ARE CLOSE TO 150,000 OF THEM WHO CAME BETWEEN 2014 AND THE PRESENT.

THOSE KIDS WHO CAME HERE WERE FLEEING THE GANGS.

THOSE ARE PEOPLE WHO TRIED TO REUNITE WITH FAMILY MEMBERS LIVING IN THE U.S.

BECAUSE THE WAY U.S. IMMIGRATION LAW WORKS, WHEN THEY SHOW UP AT THE BORDER, THEY ARE PUT IN DEPORTATION SETTINGS.

IT'S A BURRO HOLDING PATTERN.

THEY SAY BECAUSE WE KNOW YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES ARE DIFFICULT AND BECAUSE YOU HAVEN'T COMMITTED CRIMES, WE'LL TRY TO LET THE LEGAL SYSTEM PLAY ITSELF OUT AND ALLOW YOU THE OPPORTUNITY TO SEEK COUNSEL, TO POSSIBLY APPLY FOR ASYLUM.

IN THE MEANTIME, UNTIL ALL OF THOSE BOXES ARE CHECKED, YOU'RE TECHNICALLY IN DEPORTATION SETTINGS, WHICH IS WHY IT'S EASY FOR IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT TO GO IN, MAKE SUMMERY ARRESTS AND PREPARE PEOPLE FOR DEPORTATION BECAUSE THOSE PEOPLE ARE ALREADY IN THAT BOAT.

ALREADY.

YEAH.

THE ARTICLE, IT'S A WONDERFUL ARTICLE.

VERY COMPELLING LOOK AT VERY, VERY TROUBLING ISSUES.

JONATHAN, APPRECIATE YOUR SPENDING TIME WITH US AND AS YOU CONTINUE TO LOOK AT THIS, WE'LL GET YOU BACK IN TO TALK SOME MORE.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

YOU BE WELL.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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