Trudeau To Visit Trump; Differing Refugee Policies To Be Discussed

Feb 13, 2017
Originally published on February 13, 2017 8:14 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

President Trump is playing host to Canada's prime minister, Justin Trudeau, at the White House today.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Trudeau says he's looking forward to discussing Canada's policies on immigration and refugees, which differ sharply from Trump's own.

GREENE: And let's discuss that with NPR's Scott Horsley, who's on the line. Scott, good morning.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, David.

GREENE: So while President Trump has tried to close the door on refugees from Syria, other countries, a lot of people in the world have pointed to Canada as having a policy that is totally different, that the welcome mat is really out. So how different are these two countries' approaches right now?

HORSLEY: You know, David, Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau both like to use Twitter. But their 140-character messages are 180 degrees apart.

GREENE: Oh, I see what you did there (laughter).

HORSLEY: The day after Trump issued his executive order, which was an attempt to halt refugees from entering the U.S. - along with visitors from those seven majority-Muslim countries - Justin Trudeau tweeted out, and I quote, "to those fleeing persecution, terror and war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith." And then he added the hashtag, #WelcomeToCanada.

MARTIN: So, Scott, was that a dig at President Trump?

HORSLEY: Well, it may have been a little bit of a dig. Canada also sees refugees and immigrants generally as an economic advantage. I mean, that's a lightly populated country. They're looking for people that can add to their economy. Last year, Canada took in about 56,000 refugees - last year. It's expected to take in about 40,000 refugees this year. On a per capita basis, Rachel, that would be the equivalent of the United States taking in something like 365,000 refugees in a year. Instead, the president's order would cap the number of refugees the U.S. accepts this year at around 50,000.

GREENE: Well, Scott, let's talk about...

HORSLEY: ...About one-seventh.

GREENE: Let's talk about President Trump's policies because the travel ban - those seven countries - it remains really in limbo this morning, as this week starts, after that appeals court ruling late last week. What is - what is the White House's next move?

HORSLEY: The White House says they're still exploring all of their legal options, which include going back to the full 9th Circuit and asking them to review the decision made by that three-judge panel last week. The White House could also appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. What is clear is the administration is still chafing at having its decisions, its policies questioned by federal judges. Over the weekend, the president tweeted about what he called a court breakdown, saying it's allowing refugees to keep entering the country. And White House adviser Stephen Miller made the president's case on NBC's "Meet The Press."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MEET THE PRESS")

STEPHEN MILLER: The bottom line is that a district judge - a district judge in Seattle cannot make immigration law for the United States, cannot give foreign nationals in foreign countries rights they do not have and cannot prevent the president of the United States from suspending the admission of refugees from Syria.

HORSLEY: Now, it sounds there as if the White House is still arguing that judges don't have a role to play in overseeing immigration and national security policy, which is precisely the argument that the 9th Circuit rejected last week.

MARTIN: Yeah, so even as the administration and the courts are still sparring over who can come into the country in this ruling, immigration authorities have already started deporting some people, right? What's going on?

HORSLEY: Immigration authorities have been carrying out a series of raids, or enforcement actions, in cities around the country, taking people into custody, in many cases deporting them. It appears the officers are primarily targeting immigrants who have criminal records. But advocates say people whose primary offense is simply living or working in this country illegally have also been caught up in this dragnet.

Immigration authorities are trying to kind of downplay this, saying the raids are just routine. But advocates for immigrants say there's been a real climate of fear created in the last week or so. And Trump himself did refer to this over the weekend as a crackdown. Of course, the president signed an order last month which gives immigration officers broader latitude to deport immigrants who are here illegally. Here's Stephen Miller again talking about this on "Meet The Press."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MEET THE PRESS")

MILLER: If people don't like the immigration laws of the United States, they can reform them. Our emphasis is on deporting and removing criminal aliens who pose a threat to public safety. And I just want to say this. There has been a lot of coverage in the news about the effects of these enforcement actions on people who are here illegally. And that's an issue people are free to discuss. But what's more important and what should be discussed more is the lives that are being saved, Chuck, the American lives that are being saved because we're taking enforcement action.

HORSLEY: Now, Miller is a senior policy adviser in the White House. But he used to be a staffer for Senator - now Attorney General - Jeff Sessions. And Sessions' hard-line attitude on immigration was very much at odds with the Senate consensus back in 2013. However, that hard-line attitude is now driving policy in the Trump administration.

GREENE: Well, Scott, is it worth noting when it comes to hard-line attitudes, specifically on deportations - I mean, there were a lot of critics who said President Obama, I mean, had a hard-line attitude and deported a whole lot of people.

HORSLEY: Yeah, some of that depends on, you know, your definition. Who is actually being deported? Who's just being sent back across the border? Certainly, deportation swelled early in the Obama administration. They tapered off somewhat in the last couple of years. But the Obama administration really emphasized deporting serious criminals and those who had just crossed the border. So people who had been here working and living in the interior of the United States for many years didn't have a whole lot to fear in the latter years of the Obama administration. That's what we think could be changing now.

MARTIN: So getting back to this meeting that's going to happen today with the prime minister of Canada and President Trump. Yes, they're probably going to talk about immigration. But also, there's a lot of economic stuff to talk about between these two leaders, right?

HORSLEY: Yeah, there is. Canada is the United States' second-largest trading partner after China. And when President Trump talks about scrapping NAFTA, most of his ire's (ph) directed south, towards Mexico. But Canada is the other big player in that trade deal. So that is likely to be a focus of some discussion. Of course, the U.S. and Canada had a trade deal, a free trade agreement, before NAFTA went into effect.

Another issue that used to be a sore spot between the U.S. and Canada is the Keystone XL pipeline that President Obama blocked and which now President Trump has signaled he wants to greenlight. Oil producers in Western Canada are happy about that. Prime Minister Trudeau, however, who shares Obama's concern about climate change, is a less enthusiastic backer of the pipeline than his predecessor, Stephen Harper, was. So that may not be much of an icebreaker.

GREENE: OK, the leaders of the United States and Canada meeting today. And that was NPR's Scott Horsley. Scott, thanks as always.

HORSLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.