Press Availability Question & Answer Following Immigration Roundtable Discussion in South Texas
Contact: Drew Hammill/Caroline Behringer, 202-226-7616
Rio Grande Valley, TX – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi joined Congressman Vicente Gonzalez in a roundtable discussion in South Texas to discuss the negative impacts of the Trump Administration’s Executive Orders on immigrants and American communities. Below is a transcript of the question and answer portion of the press availability following the roundtable discussion:
Q: Last week, Donald Trump, during his address to Congress said that the immigration system is broken, and he did say that it needs a massive reform. I want to know what you felt when you were there. What was your reaction to the President saying that? And also, do you believe that real positive immigration reform, as the President said, is possible within the next four years? And what do you think that would look like?
Leader Pelosi. I certainly hope that it is because it’s very important, not only for the immigrant community, but for our entire country. Working with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, we have put forth our principals. Of course, we need to secure our borders. We want to respect the people that we are working with, respect the unity of their families. We want to have a path to citizenship. This is very important for us.
We had that in a bipartisan bill that passed the Senate a couple of years ago. But the Republicans in the House would not take up the bill. So we want to establish our principles. Again, they’re principles shared by the entire county about, again, protecting our country, securing our borders – we have a right to do that. But, to do so in a way that would not undermine our sense of community, that does not undermine the economy of the regions, does not depreciate the cultural exchanges and the family relationships across those borders.
And as I’ve said: this is a community with a border running through it. So, when the President said that, I was hoping that he would be referring to the bipartisan bill that passed with Democratic and Republican support in the United States Senate, but that the House Republicans would not allow a vote on.
‘Public sentiment is everything.’ The more the Members of Congress hear that the people understand the importance of immigration to our country and that we have to – if he thinks it’s broken, we now how to fix it with comprehensive immigration reform.
And I will say, speaking for myself, and just about every Member of the House Democratic Caucus, we believe that it is essential to have a path to citizenship. This is not a country where we say, ‘Okay, we’ll let you come work, but we’re not going to let you be honored with citizenship.’ That undermines America. So, as we honor our immigrants, we honor our country.
Congressman Gonzalez. I also believe that we still have a midterm election, that we can turn this deal around.
So, if we don’t pass it this time, if we’ll all [inaudible] from our side, we hope to have the numbers in the future. Also, we hope to find common ground and common sense from friends and Members on the other side of the aisle to be able to get that law passed.
Q: What are Democrats, who are in the minority in Congress, going to do to fight deportations?
Congressman Gonzalez. We will keep fighting, and we will keep trying to convince our colleagues from the other side of the aisle to help us with Comprehensive Immigration Reform, which benefits our country and honors our values.
Q: What's happening in Congress? What are Democrats doing to stop these unfair executive actions?
Congressman Gonzalez. We will continue pressuring and working with the other side to get common sense, immigration reform done, and not separate families, not separate mothers from their children.
Q: I was looking at you when you were visiting [Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley]. What do you think about this visit? Does it have any positive or negative impact on you?
Leader Pelosi. What is important in all that we do is that people have hope. And the charity that is demonstrated by Norma’s leadership there, with volunteers coming from around the country to extend kindness and love and charity to the immigrants coming into our country.
The faith that spurs them on – their faith in God, faith in our country, faith in themselves, and the charity that others are extending gives people hope. So, that was what was inspiring to me, visiting there today – reinforcing the message of hope. And I can’t say enough about Bishop Flores and Sister Norma. They have just been messengers of hope for the whole country.
Q: With a Republican majority in Congress, wouldn't we see less of a comprehensive immigration reform bill being done?
Congressman Gonzalez. Republicans have the votes to pass something in the House, but not in the Senate. We must remain hopeful and continue trying to accomplish immigration reform.
Q: Congressman, one question to you: what are we going to do about the over 1,000 veterans who have been deported? Will they be able to come back? What are you going to do?
Leader Pelosi. In terms of the deportations – thank you for your assistance on that question. In terms of what we have seen in the last 50 days and even a little before that, since the election, but certainly since the inauguration is a change. Up until then there was a practice of prosecutorial discretion, if the Department Of Homeland Security or any of the entities of government saw someone who had seriously broken the law, then that would be a subject for investigation for deportation.
Since the last 50 days we have seen something change where they are saying violation of status is sufficient reason to deport someone. We don’t buy that. Because they’re saying 11 million people can be subjected to deportation. Don’t they understand what that would do to undermine our society, our country, our economy? We have to make sure the public knows what’s at stake, when they’re saying they’re going to deport people for a violation of status. That has never been the standard for deportation.
When we stand here with the children – this is about the children, that the children have confidence in their status in America, and the security of their parents and their families in our country. They’re all family values oriented, we want them to honor the family values of our immigrant families and stop this talk of massive deportations. But we will fight them every step of the way.
Q: How does that compare to secure communities for example, in 2013 it was replaced but now it seems like it’s been reenacted.
Leader Pelosi. It’s totally different from Secure Communities.
Q: How many of these executive orders are just for show and how do they compare to legislation that was in place before the Trump Administration? Like the Border Fence Act and Secure Communities.
Congressman Gonzalez. Well, if they get overturned by our Federal Courts then I guess they’re all for show, certainly that’s the way he ran out of the gate. We were very apprehensive about this, it was a decision made on behalf of a judge that brought his former [executive order] down, that it would not pass constitutional muster, so here we are. I believe probably lot of the things we’ll see coming out of in terms of executive orders won’t be constitutional and we’ll see our federal judges making sure they don’t go anywhere.
Leader Pelosi. And understand, by what they’re doing with their executive orders and their practices, they’re circumventing the law and the courts because the courts have struck down what they are doing and they are just trying to assist upon it.
And again, it’s about this community, and we care very deeply about this community, and we care deeply about each other here. But this is about who we are as America as well, to the rest of the world. The rest of the world is recognizing the responsibility that we all have to refugees, refugees in our own hemisphere who have a right to come here from a place they would be in danger. In our hemisphere we’re saying, we went from 110,000 refugees that President Obama was allowing to 50,000, less than half.
So this is a system, that has not had shared values. And they, again, are circumventing the courts by what they’re doing and undermining values. I don’t know if I said this before, but in the course of this discussion we’ve had the Evangelical community come speak to us about the refugees, the children coming from Latin America or Syria. Evangelicals who are not shall we say, progressive Democrats. Some are but they’re Evangelicals, first and foremost, and they’ve said the America Refugee Resettlement Program is the crown jewel of American Humanitarianism.
Three million people have come through the Resettlement Program and none of them have done harm to the United States of America. So they use a false pretense of protecting our country. We all have that responsibility – our Veterans who are here – we all have that responsibility to protect Americans and to secure our borders. But to do so in a way that not only protects the borders but protects the constitution of the United States.
Q: I just want to say I admire you; you’re one of my favorite people, next to [Congressman] Jose Gonzalez. I want to say, I have a house in Mexico, and it’s safe, it’s not like the way they talk about it with violence. I promise I go there every other day, I take my kids, I take my family, and it’s safe.
Leader Pelosi. Thank you.
Q: Do you think more could have been done by the Obama Administration in the last 8 years by Congress to protect immigrants from mass deportations?
Leader Pelosi. No, I think the President did a great deal, he was opposed by the Republicans every step of the way. Even when we had a bill passed in the Senate, the Republican leadership majority in the House would not allow the bill to be brought up. So the President did everything in his power, in terms of executive orders. They took him to court, as you all know.
But Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush – they did it and the public responded very positively to that. I think the public would respond positively to honoring our values as a country, respecting the dignity and work of every person, if the Congress would do that.
But I’ll tell you this: we do have an election coming up in 20 months – Midterm elections. But elections are about two things: about who you elect and what the debate is.
So, if people get started right now, telling their friends in other districts where Republicans are in office that you are mobilizing – that we don’t agonize, we organize. I think you will see a change of behavior on the part of the people who have been there obstinately opposing any initiative to bring up comprehensive immigration reform.
We have answers. Comprehensive immigration reform is the answer to many of the challenges and questions that we have. We should get on with that.
Q: What about when you were Speaker and there was a Democratic Congress. Why wasn’t there comprehensive immigration reform then? Why didn’t you do your job as Speaker in 2009 and 2010?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I will remind you that we did not have 60 Democrats in the Senate. We went into office with 58 Democrats.
Q: You had close to it.
Leader Pelosi. No, but we didn’t have 60. You have to have 60. We got 59 on DREAM Act when we passed the DREAM Act in the House. We could only get 59 in the Senate. We didn’t have 60 votes. So, I detest and I do accept it with the antagonism that may be intended, but the fact is: you have an accusatorial tone. The fact is: we didn’t have 60 votes – that could’ve done that.
Q: Why didn’t Senator Reid break the filibuster? Why didn’t he do that? The filibuster…
Leader Pelosi. They haven’t done that. They haven’t done that. And they haven’t done it yet because that’s the Senate. I can’t answer for the Senate, but what I can say is: we passed the DREAM Act in the House and were able to do it because of the leadership of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the respect that Members had for all of them – all of those Members who said that this is a priority, this is a value for us. So we were very proud to pass it in the House. Unfortunately, we didn’t have 60 votes in the Senate. We still don’t have 60 votes in the Senate.
So, if you have some, shall we say, enthusiasm inside of you, take it to the Republicans because that is where the problem is.
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