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Republicans And Democrats Remain Divided On Fate Of DACA


We're going to start the program today talking about new tensions around the program known as DACA, short for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. That's an Obama era rule that allows undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to apply for protection from deportation. The Trump administration has said it wants to cancel the program in six months.

But President Trump met with Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi last week. And they reportedly agreed to work together to protect DACA recipients somehow. Until they come up with an actual plan, though, some 800,000 young people remain in limbo. And we will hear from one of those young people in just a few minutes.

But first, to the tensions. Neither President Trump supporters nor many of the Democratic lawmakers are pleased that the two are moving ahead on a deal without consulting with their respective bases. Joining us on the line to talk about this is Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, Democrat of California. She's the former chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. And she's now vice chairwoman of the House Democratic Caucus. Congresswoman, thank you so much for speaking with us.

LINDA SANCHEZ: Yeah. It's great to be with you.

MARTIN: So, Congresswoman, I take it that some of your colleagues are not pleased that these talks took place. Some of them have been quite vocal about the fact that they feel that the Democrats may have already given away too much. How do you feel about these talks?

SANCHEZ: Well, you know, the talks sort of spring up in the context of talking about other issues that Congress needs to work on and try to work in a bipartisan fashion to get it done. So the fact that these talks are happening, though, to me, is promising because President Trump has sort of intimated that he'd like to see a legislative fix to help DREAMers remain in this country and that, to me, is an opening.

And I think we should exploit that and try to talk with him and negotiate and see if we can get, you know, some relief for these, you know, young, talented individuals to stay in this country. So we - I see it as an opening to try to get the DREAM Act passed. And there's still a lot of negotiation that will need to happen. But that's what we're focused on doing is trying to get the DREAM Act passed.

MARTIN: So to that end, the Trump administration, President Trump in particular, has said that that some kind of enhanced border security would have to be part of a deal. Can you live with that?

SANCHEZ: Well, it depends on what he's talking about. And, you know, one of the things that I've been pretty vocal about is the fact that, you know, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has worked on immigration issues for decades. We're sort of in the - leaders on those issues. And, you know, we need to be a part of those negotiations.

We need to be a part of those discussions. And I think that any, you know, final sign off on a bill that the Democratic caucus, you know, would support would have to have the blessing of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

MARTIN: But what does that mean? Does that mean that members of the caucus have to be in the room? I mean, you are a member of the House Democratic leadership. So what does that mean? What does that look like? What would meaningful participation look like in your view?

SANCHEZ: Well, you know, immediate briefings after - obviously, we can't, you know, throw 30 people into a room. And let everybody have an opinion during the negotiation would take far too long. We recognize that, you know, the number has to be limited in order to make progress. But, I mean, I think we should have a representative sitting in on those talks.

I have great respect for Leader Pelosi and for Chuck Schumer. You know, but again, this is an issue that, you know, hits very close to home for some members, including a member who is a DREAMer himself. So, you know, we know what's at stake. We hear the stories of families and DREAMers. And, you know, we feel like we are an important part of that negotiation process and we should be included.

MARTIN: Before we let you go, are you hopeful or pessimistic? Do you think a deal can be reached in six months, as briefly as you can, Congresswoman?

SANCHEZ: You know, the DREAM Act should be the easiest piece of legislation to pass ever in the history of our Congress because poll after poll shows that a majority of - pardon me - a majority of Americans, regardless of what political party they belong to, support providing relief for DREAMers. There's overwhelming public support. And there is certainly Republican support for the bill.

The problem has been that the Republican leadership has never scheduled a vote for it. And if they were to bring that bill to the floor, I believe we have the votes to pass it.

MARTIN: We have to leave it there. Congresswoman, we have to leave it there for now. We're going to hear from a young DREAMer in just a minute. That's Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, Democrat of California. Thanks so much for speaking with us.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, my pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.