Advocacy Director For United We Dream Reacts To Trump's Border Wall Speech

Jan 9, 2019
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

President Trump tried to enlist the public last night in his drive to win funding for a border wall.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: To every citizen, call Congress and tell them to finally, after all of these decades, secure our border.

INSKEEP: The president delivered a speech to the nation. He issued warnings against the costs of illegal immigration and the costs of crime. The many people listening included Sanaa Abrar. She is advocacy director for United We Dream, an immigrant youth-led organization. Welcome to the program.

SANAA ABRAR: Hi, glad to be here.

INSKEEP: What struck you here last night?

ABRAR: Well, I think, for me, there were no surprises in this address. We have seen Trump playing from the same anti-immigrant playbook for not only the two years of this administration but also throughout his 2016 campaign. I think the biggest thing that jumped out at me was that as much as this has been about a wall, he has been demanding money not only for a barrier, a wall, whatever you want to call it at the southern border, but more money for agencies that have been created to come after communities like mine, immigrants who are crossing the border.

TRUMP: Can I just mention - you said anti-immigrant playbook. The president did explicitly say last night that he welcomed legal immigration to the country, that it helps to enrich the country, which is something that people do not always say. Do you not think he was sincere?

ABRAR: Unfortunately, we have the receipts. This past Sunday, the president sent out his communications in the form of a letter to members of Congress, essentially laying out his demands in this so-called negotiation that he's undergoing, right? We saw not only the $5.7 billion dollars for the wall but also explicit demands to make changes to certain laws that have been in place in this country to protect, for example, children in detention. He called for changes to existing asylum law in order to deport unaccompanied children without due process, as well as a whole slew of demands for millions more for ICE and CBP agents, as well as money to build even more detention camps that would hold immigrants in terrible and abusive ways.

INSKEEP: Oh. And you see this is not just anti-illegal immigration but anti-immigrant because some people who are in those detention centers are asylum-seekers who may well have a legal claim to be in the United States.

ABRAR: Of course, yes. And this whole playbook has been designed not only by the likes of Donald Trump but, unfortunately, anti-immigrant players, like Stephen Miller. We saw a good-faith move to push for the DREAM Act last year, unfortunately, turn over because of demand to change existing immigration law not only on the ends of asylum but to change things like the diversity visa program to...

INSKEEP: Or the number of legal immigrants to the United States in the course of a year. Sure.

ABRAR: Exactly.

INSKEEP: That effort to bring back protections for DACA recipients - there was an effort to connect that to border wall funding last year, an effort to trade border wall funding for DACA protections. Is that a compromise that you would welcome now if somebody were to bring it back onto the table?

ABRAR: Now, at this point, what we're very clear on is that Trump has a whole list of demands that go beyond just the billions of dollars more for the wall. What we're clear on is that we are not going to go into negotiations with a man who is responsible for ending DACA in the first place, for overturning good-faith negotiations to move the DREAM Act forward. What Democrats must do right now is not give in to more of the abuses that have been putting people at the border and throughout our country in danger. Right now it's about rejecting any more money of any kind that will go into his anti-immigrant deportation agenda.

INSKEEP: Sanaa Abrar of the DREAMer advocacy group United We Dream, thanks so much.

ABRAR: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.