NPR’s Michel Martin speaks with reporter Tessa Stuart about her reporting on the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We will now move on to what has been a central issue for President Trump’s administration and his base. We are talking about immigration. In this week’s presidential mayoralty, he spoke about what he sees as his victories and what he claims to be his hopes.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We’ll take care of DACA. We’ll take care of DREAMer. We – it works now. We negotiate different aspects of immigration and immigration law. We have now built over 400 miles of border wall, southern border. Mexico is working closely with us. We have the strongest border we have ever had. We want people to come to our country. They must enter legally. But we are working very hard on the DACA program.
MARTIN: Now we realize that during debates and town halls, it might not be as clear as how what is said compares to facts, so as we have done before , we’re going to break down the background. what the candidates have said on important political issues. For today’s conversation, we’re calling Tessa Stuart. She covers national affairs and politics for Rolling Stone, and has reported extensively on President Trump’s immigration policies.
Tessa Stuart, welcome. Thank you very much for joining us.
TESSA STUART: Thank you, Michel.
MARTIN: So let’s move on to your recent story. You recently wrote an article that provides an overview of President Trump’s immigration policies. And your reports suggest that this administration has dramatically changed the immigration system in less than four years – even more than most people would imagine, even given the number of measures that catch the President’s attention. So what do you mean by that? What’s the biggest difference compared to four years ago?
STUART: So it’s a mix, right? There are these big drastic changes – things like family separation, travel bans, increased ICE raids across the country. But what we’re also seeing are smaller, more technical changes in places that have sort of gone unnoticed. So the researchers I spoke to found that there were over 400 of these changes – executive action, policy direction, different regulations that changed or that were implemented that really changed. from top to bottom what immigration law enforcement looks like in this country.
MARTIN: One of the important points you’ve made in your article and in this conversation is that the Trump administration, for all its reputation for chaos and mismanagement, has been extremely focused on immigration policy, to the point that – you were telling us earlier that some of the people who do some sort of basic research in this area say that they struggle to keep up with all the changes, that they are not even sure that there is some kind of final review somewhere of all the changes this administration has made.
Considering that, what sense do you have of whether a Biden administration would put the same level of attention on this issue as the Trump administration, but the other way around?
STUART: Well, I think they certainly have promise to undo a lot of the biggest and most – the most eye-catching and discussed changes in immigration policy that this administration has made. It would therefore be the travel ban, DACA, separation from the family. Joe Biden has promised to undo all of these things. I think what people worry about immigration advocates or looking at these changes is that there are so many small changes that have gone under the radar that they might not be able to. not all of them.
And I think the other big point the researchers would want to make is that a lot of the changes the Trump administration has made and one of the ways they might have a lasting effect is that they’ve been layered. So they use a lot of different tools to make the exact same change.
MARTIN: It’s fascinating. Before you let go, did you hear from people on this issue? What are the most pressing concerns you hear voiced?
STUART: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s an existential problem for so many families in America. I mean, I spoke to Elsa Valle, who lives in New Jersey. She has lived here for over 20 years and has temporary protection status. And she – so her status, her temporary protection status, is extended to immigrants who are here – or to undocumented immigrants who come from countries that have been ravaged by war or natural disasters.
So she’s been here for 20 years. She is married to a man who has also been here and operated under the same protected status. They have a son that they brought here as a child who is protected by DACA. And then they had a second son when they got to the United States. And what that means to them is that at different times in the Trump administration they did not know how their family will stay together and whether it will be possible for them to stay together.
MARTIN: It’s Tessa Stuart. She covers politics and national affairs for Rolling Stone magazine.
Tessa Stuart, thank you very much for speaking with us.
STUART: Thanks, Michel.
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