THE MIDTERMS & CITIZENSHIP

A trial challenging the Trump administration, and a question about citizenship begins, as a polarized nation awaits the results of the midterm elections. Tonight we’ll examine what’s at stake in the midterm elections, looking at not only federal dollars but potential powers. What fate lies ahead for the caravan of refugees from Central and South America, who are now almost one thousand miles from the U.S. border? New York Rep. Adriano Espaillat was an undocumented immigrant when he arrived in this country. Tonight he gives us his reaction.

Aired on November 6, 2018. 

TRANSCRIPT

DEMOCRATS ARE INVITING CARAVAN AFTER CARAVAN.

ISN'T THAT NICE?

OF ILLEGAL ALIENS TO FLOOD INTO OUR COUNTRY, AND OVERWHELM YOUR COMMUNITIES.

IF YOU WANT MORE CARAVANS AND MORE CRIME, VOTE DEMOCRAT.

IF YOU WANT STRONG BORDERS AND SAFE COMMUNITIES, VOTE REPUBLICAN.

AS AMERICA AWAITS MIDTERM ELECTION RETURNS, AT A TIME WHEN THE COUNTRY COULDN'T SEEM TO BE MORE DIVIDED, A FEDERAL TRIAL STARTED YESTERDAY IN DOWNTOWN THAT IS ALSO BEING CLOSELY WATCHED, AND ITS OUTCOME WILL ALSO HAVE ENORMOUS IMPLICATIONS.

IN QUESTION, IS THE QUESTION LITERALLY.

A CONTROVERSIAL ONE ABOUT CITIZENSHIP AND ITS ADDITION TO THE 2020 CENSUS.

THE PLAINTIFFS CHALLENGING THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION, 18 STATES IN TOTAL, INCLUDING NEW YORK, THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, SEVERAL CITIES AND A HANDFUL OF IMMIGRANT GROUPS.

THEY ALL SAY THE CITIZENSHIP QUESTION WAS MOTIVATED BY DISCRIMINATORY INTENTS BY MINORITIES WHO MIGHT NOT ANSWER OUT OF FEAR OF REPRISAL.

AN INCORRECT COUNT WOULD AFFECT HOW BILLIONS OF DOLLARS OF FEDERAL FUNDS ARE DISBURSED.

THE CASE IS PLAYED OUT AS THE CARAVAN OF REFUGEES FROM SOUTH AND CENTRAL AMERICA CONTINUING ITS SLOW MOVE NORTH.

AND AS PRESIDENT TRUMP RAMPS UP BORDER SECURITY WITH UP TO 15,000 U.S.

TROOPS.

ONE MEMBER OF CONGRESS HAS BEEN WATCHING ALL OF THESE DEVELOPMENTS UNFOLD WITH UNIQUE INSIGHT.

HE REPRESENTS NEW YORK'S 13th CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT, WHICH ENCOMPASSES PART OF THE BRONX AND UPPER MANHATTAN, AND THE FIRST MEMBER OF CONGRESS WHO CAME TO THEITE AS AN UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANT AND JOINS ME NOW.

CONGRESSMAN, WELCOME BACK TO 'METROFOCUS.'

THANK YOU FOR INVITING ME ONCE AGAIN.

SO I JUST WANT TO GO STRAIGHT TO YOUR PERSONAL STORY.

TAKE US BACK TO WHEN YOU FIRST CAME TO THIS COUNTRY, HOW DID THAT HAPPEN AND WHAT WERE THE CIRCUMSTANCES?

WE CAME HERE, MY FAMILY AND I, ON A VISITOR'S VISA.

MY GRANDPARENTS WERE ALREADY HERE SINCE THE '50s.

THEY WERE HERE BEFORE I WAS BORN.

THEY WERE BOTH FACTORY WORKERS, CAME HERE TO DO BETTER FOR THEMSELVES.

FINALLY WE CAME IN ON A VISITOR'S VISA AND OVERSTAID OUR VISA AND FOUND OURSELVES WITHOUT ANY DOCUMENTATION.

AND EVENTUALLY HAD TO GO BACK TO THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC TO GET OUR GREEN CARD, RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF A CIVIL WAR OVER THERE.

HAD WE NOT GETTEN THE GREEN CARD, I COULD NOT BE HERE TODAY.

GIVEN THE FACT THAT THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC WAS IMBROILED IN A CIVIL WAR, IS THAT SOMETHING THAT TOUCHED YOUR LIFE?

I THINK THE WHOLE EXPERIENCE OF THE WAR THERE, THE AFTERMATH OF THE WAR, WHICH LED TO A GREAT MIGRATION OF DOMINICANS TO NEW YORK CITY.

I REMEMBER WHEN THEY SENT US HOME AFTER SCHOOL WHEN MARTIN LUTHER KING WAS KID.

MALCOLM X WAS MURDERED UP THE BLOCK, AND THE VIETNAM WAR.

ALL OF THAT STUFF TOGETHER SHAPED WHO I AM TODAY.

ALL RIGHT.

WELL, WHERE WE ARE WITH IMMIGRATION RIGHT NOW, ESPECIALLY DEALING WITH UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS IN THE COUNTRY, WHAT IS IT FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE IS BEING MISSED IN OUR NATIONAL DIALOGUE?

COMPASSION.

I THINK THAT IS A GREAT PORTION OF AMERICA WHO SIDES WITH THE PRESIDENT HAS LOST EMPATHY AND COMPASSION FOR OTHERS.

THIS NATION IS BUILT ON A VALUE SYSTEM THAT WE WILL HELP THE LEAST AMONG US.

AND PEOPLE WHO COME FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD, BECAUSE WE ARE AMERICA, AND IT'S A GREAT NATION THAT HARBORS EVERYBODY, AND ALLOWS THEM TO FLOURISH.

BUT THIS HAS CHANGED, AND THIS IS A MEAN SPIRITED ATTITUDE OUT THERE THAT I THINK IS BEING PUSHED FROM THE WHITE HOUSE.

SO HERE'S ONE OH OF THE OTHER QUESTIONS IS THAT RIGHT NOW WE'RE SEEING THIS MOVEMENT, I MEAN, THE PRESIDENT HAS CALLED IT A CARAVAN, HE'S CALLED IT AN INVASION.

OTHER PEOPLE HAVE SAID THESE ARE ASYLUM SEEKERS WHO ARE QUITE LITERALLY WALKING UP FROM CENTRAL AMERICA.

BUT HOW DO YOU THINK IS THE BEST WAY FOR A COUNTRY LIKE AMERICA TO ADDRESS THIS LARGE GROUP OF PEOPLE WHO ARE HOPING TO CLAIM ASYLUM BUT MAYBE WE DON'T HAVE THE RESOURCES, MAYBE WE DON'T -- I MEAN, THERE WASN'T -- NOBODY APPLIED FOR A VISA, WHICH TECHNICALLY IS WHAT THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION IS SAYING THAT THEY WANT PEOPLE TO DO BEFORE THEY COME TO THE COUNTRY, NOT TO COME AND JUST CROSS THE BORDER, NOT TO COME AND OVERSTAY A VISA.

THE NUMBER OF FORECAST HAS DWINDLED DOWN TO MAYBE 3500.

I THINK THAT BECAUSE THE WHITE HOUSE HAS ALREADY EXPRESSED A BIASED OPINION OF IT, THE PRESIDENT GOING AS FAR AS SAYING IF THEY THROW ROCKS, MAYBE WE SHOULD SHOOT BACK, I THINK THE UNITED NATIONS NEEDS TO STEP IN.

AND ON THE MEXICO SIDE OF THE BORDER, AND ENSURE THAT NO ONE'S HUMAN RIGHTS ARE VIOLATED.

THIS IS A HUMAN RIGHTS CRISIS NOW.

AND ENSURE THAT THESE FOLKS ARE TREATED WITH THE SERVICES THEY NEED, AND THE U.S.

CAN VET THEM AND SEE WHO IS ENTITLED TO HAVE -- APPLY FOR ASYLUM AND GET ASYLUM.

THAT'S ONE OF THE ISSUES THAT IS ALSO COMING UP, BECAUSE WE UNDERSTAND THERE'S A LOT OF WOMEN AND CHILDREN TRAVELING WITH THIS GROUP.

2/3 OF THE GROUP ARE WOMEN AND CHILDREN.

2/3 OF THE GROUP, OKAY.

SO THEN WHAT IS IT -- WHAT ARE YOUR CONCERNS FOR THESE WOMEN AND CHILDREN ONCE THEY CROSS?

WE HEARD THE PRESIDENT CONSIDER REENGAGING IN THE ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY WE SAW THAT LED TO THE SEPARATION OF SMALL CHILDREN FROM THEIR MOTHERS.

AMERICA REJECTED THAT, AND THAT'S WHY THE PRESIDENT HAD TO BACK PEDAL.

AND THAT'S WHY HE HAD TO RESORT TO THIS RHETORIC REGARDING THE SO-CALLED CARAVAN.

WHICH IN ITSELF IS A VERY QUESTIONABLE WORD.

BECAUSE IT DEHUMANIZES PEOPLE.

IT GIVES THEM NO FACE.

WHEN YOU SAY IT'S JUST A CARAVAN, LIKE A MOB OF PEOPLE, IT DEHUMANIZES THEM.

THEY ARE PEOPLE WITH STORIES BEHIND THEM AND FAMILIES.

AND SOME OF THEM ARE RUNNING FOR THEIR LIVES.

AND SO WHAT HAPPENS IS THAT AMERICA ALREADY REJECTED THE PRESIDENT'S DECISION TO SPLIT A NINE-MONTH BABY FROM HIS OR HER MOM, AND AMERICA REJECTED THE ATTITUDE THAT THE WHITE HOUSE HAD WITH DREAMERS.

OVERWHELMINGLY.

OVER 80% OF AMERICANS FELT THAT DREAMERS SHOULD STAY, IN RED STRAITS, BLUE STATES, REPUBLICAN AND DEMOCRATIC DISTRICTS.

VAST MAJORITY OF AMERICANS FELT IT WAS INHUMANE TO RIP A CHILD FROM A MOTHER'S ARM.

SO OF COURSE, YOU HAVE TO SHIFT BACK AND THEN TRY TO IMPOSE A DEBATE ABOUT SOMETHING ELSE.

IN THIS CASE, HE CALLS IT A CARAVAN.

AND HE SAYS, VIOLENT, BLOOD THIRSTY PEOPLE.

AND OF COURSE, HE TALKS ABOUT SANCTUARY CITIES, AS THOUGH A SANCTUARY CITY HARBORS VIOLENT CRIMINALS, BUT IN FACT IT ONLY ALLOWS A MOM TO TAKE HER CHILD TO SCHOOL WITHOUT THE FEAR THAT THE PRINCIPAL IS GOING TO CALL I.C.E.

ON HER OR A GRAND FAITH TORE GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM WITHOUT FEAR OF HAVING I.C.E.

CALLED.

I WANTED TO BRING THIS BACK TO THE CENSUS.

YOU HAVE THE QUESTION OF WHETHER OR NOT YOU ARE A CITIZEN APPEARS ON THE CENSUS.

ARE YOU CONCERNED THAT IF YOU HAVE CONSTITUENTS, IF OTHER PLACES IN NEW YORK, THERE'S PEOPLE WHO DON'T FEEL COMFORTABLE ANSWERING THE CENSUS, WHAT HAPPENS?

THIS IS NOT JUST ABOUT THE UNDOCUMENTED BY THE WAY, THAT QUESTION.

IF I'M A U.S.

CITIZEN, AND I HAVE TO ANSWER THAT QUESTIONNAIRE, AND I HAVE TO REPORT MY HOUSEHOLD, AND IF THERE'S AN UNDOCUMENTED COUSIN OR BROTHER LIVING IN MY HOUS HOUSEHOLD, I MAY CHOOSE NOT TO FILL THAT FORM OUT IN FEAR THAT THEY WILL COME FOR MY BROTHER.

SERVICES AND RESOURCES, MONEYS WILL BE DENIED FOR ALL NEW YORKERS WHEN THE POPULATION IS NOT COUNTED APPROPRIATELY OR ACCURATELY.

SO THE U.S.

BORN CHILDREN WILL GET LESS MONEY IN THEIR SCHOOLS.

LEGAL RESIDENTS WILL GET LESS MONEY IN THEIR SCHOOLS.

THE UNDOCUMENTED ALSO WILL GET LESS MONEY.

EVERYBODY WILL GET LESS MONEY BECAUSE THE COUNT WILL GO DOWN.

SO THIS IS SOMETHING THAT SENDS A CHILLING EFFECT TO FAMILIES THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY, PARTICULARLY THE UNDOCUMENTED, AND EVEN LEGAL RESIDENTS WHO WILL FEAR, WAIT A MINUTE, I DON'T KNOW IF THIS ONLY APPLIES -- THIS MAY APPLY TO ME.

BUT EVEN U.S.

CITIZENS WHO HAVE FAMILY MEMBERS WHO ARE IN THAT PREDICAMENT, MAY SAY I DON'T WANT TO PUT ANYBODY IN PERIL, I DON'T WANT TO FILL IT OUT.

WHAT IS ABOUT THE IMPACT OF VOTING DISTRICTS?

THAT'S THE SECOND PHASE, WHICH IS THE MAIN OBJECTIVE, IS TO USE THE CENSUS AS A POLITICAL TOOL, AND TO HAVE IT HAVE A COUNT THAT WILL RESULT IN A REDUCTION IN DISTRICTS AND PERHAPS ANOTHER REPUBLICAN MAJORITY.

OF COURSE, THE FEDERAL FUNDING.

YOU SORT OF TALKED ABOUT HOW EVEN AMERICAN BORN CITIZENS, CHILDREN WOULDN'T BE GETTING MONEY FOR THE SCHOOLS THEY NEED.

WHAT ELSE WOULD BE AT STAKE WITH A LOSS OF FEDERAL FUNDING, PARTICULARLY FOR A CITY LIKE NEW YORK?

ANY MUNICIPALITY THAT HAS LARGE NUMBERS OF IMMIGRANTS WILL BE HARD PRESSED NOT TO PUSH FOR THIS QUESTION TO GO OFF THE CENSUS FORM.

IT WILL BE LIKE GOVERNMENT MALPRACTICE FOR ANY MUNICIPALITY OR COUNTY, TO THE TO HAVE THEIR FAIR SHARE, TO ADDRESS THE NEED OF THE POPULATION IT SERVICES.

ANY REDUCTION TO LOSE TO A LACK OF SERVICES FOR EVERYBODY, NOT JUST THE UNDOCUMENTED OR GREEN CARD HOLDERS, BUT U.S.

CITIZENS, AS WELL.

ALL RIGHT.

LISTEN, CONGRESSMAN, WE WOULD LOVE TO HAVE YOU BACK, ESPECIALLY AFTER THE ELECTION SO WE CAN GO THROUGH WHAT WAS DECIDED, AND WE'LL BE WATCHING THIS CASE VERY CLOSELY.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

THANK YOU.

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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