Immigration And Border Security Top President-Elect Trump's To-Do List

Nov 15, 2016
Originally published on November 15, 2016 7:31 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

During the campaign, Donald Trump talked tough about immigration wherever he went. And judging from an interview the other night on the CBS program "60 Minutes," no reason to think he won't follow through with at least some action. Trump said he definitely plans to build a barrier on the U.S.-Mexican border. He said he is not going to round up all 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. as he vowed during the campaign. He just wants to round up the criminals. Here's more from NPR's John Burnett.

JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: Immigration was a potent issue for voters like Casey Boyd. She's a mobile phone salesperson who voted a straight GOP ticket at her polling place in Bigfoot, Texas, and she expects action.

CASEY BOYD: Illegal people of all types, not just Hispanics, but, you know, the Syrians and Cubans and - whoever doesn't belong here, I really hope that that gets under control.

BURNETT: Never mind that most Cubans and Syrians are here legally. Trump has made clear he will decide who doesn't belong here. Here's what he told Leslie Stahl of CBS.

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DONALD TRUMP: What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and - have criminal records - gang members, drug dealers. We have a lot of these people, probably 2 million. It could even be 3 million. We are getting them out of our country or we're going to incarcerate. But we're getting them out of our country. They're here illegally.

BURNETT: Immigration and Customs Enforcement estimates there are about 2 million so-called removeable criminal aliens in the United States. But most of them are not drug dealers and gang members or murderers and rapists as Trump says. The majority of offenses by noncitizens are nonviolent, such as shoplifting or driving under the influence.

JESSICA VAUGHAN: Most people who get arrested are arrested for lesser crimes.

BURNETT: Jessica Vaughan blogs about deportation policy at the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank in favor of less immigration and tighter borders. Even though these may be lesser crimes, Trump is indicating he wants his deportation force to round them all up and send them home, a position Vaughan favors.

VAUGHAN: Fewer of the criminal aliens who are discovered will be falling through the cracks.

BURNETT: In contrast, as a matter of priority, Obama's immigration agents have focused their efforts on only the most serious criminals. A lot of people are asking whether Trump's immigration police will also target the so-called dreamers. That's the name given to the more than 700,000 unauthorized immigrants who were brought to this country as children.

Under one of Obama's executive orders, he gave them temporary work permits and protection from deportation. Trump has vowed to cancel every one of these presidential orders. Juan Belman is a 23-year-old dreamer studying anthropology at the University of Texas. He wonders when his work permit expires in June if he'll be deported back to Mexico, which he left when he was 10.

JUAN BELMAN: I think a lot of us were getting used to having this work permit, used to having driver's license. And now that those are going to be done I think we're going to have to rethink everything from bottom up.

BURNETT: Belman lives in Austin, Texas, a city that may be on Trump's blacklist. Trump has vowed to cancel federal law enforcement grants to so-called sanctuary cities. Police in Austin and about 150 other jurisdictions around the country refuse to turn over unauthorized immigrants to federal authorities.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting in Spanish).

BURNETT: At an immigrant solidarity rally on Sunday, Mayor Steve Adler struck a defiant tone. He said, regardless who the next president is, Austin will remain a city that offers sanctuary to unauthorized immigrants...

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STEVE ADLER: Where everyone living in Austin deserves to feel safe and to be welcome.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking Spanish).

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BURNETT: For proof that Trump's America will be harder for immigrants to enter, look no further than the chief of his new transition team for immigration policy. Kris Kobach is Kansas secretary of state. He's best known for offering harsh anti-immigrant bills around the country and for giving Trump the idea to seize remittances sent home by immigrants as a way to force Mexico to bankroll the border wall. Kobach spoke to KWCH TV the day after the election.

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KRIS KOBACH: There's no question the wall is going to get built. The only question is how quickly will it get done, and who else pay for it.

BURNETT: Immigrant advocates who found the Obama White House willing to listen to them expect a different reception over the next four years.

MICHELLE BRANE: Our concern is that we will be shut out from discussions.

BURNETT: Michelle Brane of the Women's Refugee Commission is among progressive activists who are trying to figure out how they can be effective and protect immigrants going forward.

BRANE: For undocumented immigrants, there will be a pretty intense focus on deportation and I assume detention.

BURNETT: Now, listen to the other side - Roy Beck, at NumbersUSA, which shares Donald Trump's aspirations for stricter immigration.

ROY BECK: We've been in the wilderness for 20 years under the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations - doesn't matter the party. And yes, now we are in the room.

BURNETT: As the parable in the Bible says, the last shall first and the first shall be last. John Burnett, NPR News, Austin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.