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News Brief: Sanctuary Cities, Rep. Ilhan Omar, 'Game Of Thrones'

Apr 15, 2019
Originally published on April 15, 2019 10:38 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The history of a White House proposal for migrants suggests just how serious it is or is not.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

News reports last week revealed a Trump administration proposal that was made and rejected. Lawyers turned aside the plan to drop detained asylum seekers in so-called sanctuary cities. Now, White House officials said this was no longer an idea under consideration. But as soon as it was generating conversation, President Trump extended the news coverage for days by claiming that he's really considering this. White House spokesman Hogan Gidley spoke with NPR's Michel Martin yesterday.

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HOGAN GIDLEY: It's not political retribution. If anything, you should consider it - on the Democrat side - to be an olive branch.

INSKEEP: NPR's Joel Rose covers immigration and joins us now. Joel, good morning.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Hey, Steve.

INSKEEP: Are there any details of this presidential proposal beyond his tweets?

ROSE: Not much. I mean, the president is talking about taking detained migrants who were apprehended at the southern border and transporting them to so-called sanctuary cities, which loosely are defined as jurisdictions that limit their cooperation with immigration authorities.

And as you say, the White House has sent spokespeople - I mean, spokespeople have been out over the weekend talking up this idea, arguing that there are huge numbers of migrants arriving at the border, which is true. We had more than 100,000 last month alone, which is the biggest monthly total in a decade. And the White House argues that communities along the border shouldn't be forced to bear the brunt of that, as they put it.

Democrats, meanwhile, are howling with outrage. The reaction of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf pretty much sums up her party's response. Here's Schaaf speaking to NPR's Weekend Edition.

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LIBBY SCHAAF: This is about an outrageous abuse of power. The idea that you could use human beings, families, as instruments of political payback to exact retribution on your political enemies, this is not America.

INSKEEP: And we should be clear. The White House says this is an olive branch. The way that this has been framed on social media over the last few days by the president's supporters is this is a way to get back at Democrats. Setting aside the motivations, though, would it be legal to do this?

ROSE: The president argues that it would be. But it's been reported that lawyers inside the Department of Homeland Security had concerns about this proposal, and that's one of the reasons why it hasn't happened. Clearly, the president's critics and opponents would challenge this move in court if he actually does move forward with this proposal.

INSKEEP: Well, let's say it was found to be legal. Is it in any way practical to take a bunch of migrants on the border and just start dropping them off in San Francisco or whatever city has policies the White House doesn't like?

ROSE: The fact is that it would be an enormous logistical challenge, right? I mean, the Border Patrol and other immigration authorities have been saying loudly for months now that they are overwhelmed by these huge numbers of migrants, largely Central Americans who are fleeing from violence and poverty.

You know, if authorities are barely managing to get these people to cities on the border right now as it is, never mind transporting them, you know, hundreds or even thousands of additional miles - so it would be costly for sure. That's one of the reasons immigration authorities reportedly pushed back on this idea when it was floated initially. And also, from an operational perspective, it's not really clear how much this proposal would achieve.

INSKEEP: I'm sorry - what do you mean, an operational perspective?

ROSE: So there's the reality at the border that this proposal seems to overlook, which is that most of these migrants spend very little time in the cities where they're released by immigration authorities - maybe 48 hours, something like that. The vast majority of these migrants have a connection in the U.S. already, like a friend or a relative in some part of the country who can wire them the money for a bus ticket. And then they move on to Iowa or New York or LA or Virginia.

And certainly, this - the migrants are putting a strain on the nonprofit organizations that shelter and work with them near the border. But the idea that they remain there in these - or would stay in these sanctuary cities, that's just not how we're seeing it work right now on the ground.

INSKEEP: So we have a proposal here that would be emotionally satisfying for people who resent sanctuary cities, but would have no other practical effect. That's what you're reporting here, Joel.

ROSE: I - it's hard to see what it would accomplish. Yes.

INSKEEP: OK. NPR's Joel Rose, thanks so much.

ROSE: You're welcome.

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INSKEEP: Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar is saying she faces more death threats.

GREENE: Yeah. Her comments come after the president shared a video on his Twitter feed on Friday. This video included recent comments Omar made during a speech on civil liberties edited with graphic footage of the World Trade Center towers burning. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has asked for a review of security measures intended to protect the Congresswoman, her family and her staff.

INSKEEP: NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis, who's following this, is in our studios. Good morning.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: More death threats, meaning she was already receiving death threats?

DAVIS: She has. You know, Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, she is the - one of the two first Muslim women serving in Congress. She is someone that has become rather familiar to a lot of people as a freshman lawmaker because she has already been the point of earlier controversies over comments she has made. And in the course of her short tenure in Congress, she has drawn a lot of attention and, yes, a lot of threats.

INSKEEP: Some of the comments were about Israel, about Jews, about power of American Jews in the United States and so forth. Now she made these comments about the aftermath of 9/11 and pressures that Muslims felt. And at one point, there was a phrase in there - some people did something - which was taken as her description of 9/11. How strong has the response been to that reference?

DAVIS: Well, it's interesting on the Democratic side because in this instance, I think you see so many more of her colleagues in her party coming to her defense - that the president, in using these words and juxtaposing her image against the 9/11 attacks, has, in their words, attempted to incite violence against her and that her comments, in the broader context of what she was saying, was talking about overall Muslim bigotry in the country following 9/11 and that she sees herself as an activist against those forms of bigotry.

INSKEEP: You said that Democrats are publicly - are vociferously defending her, in this case.

DAVIS: They have been more quick to defend her here, although it's interesting to see the debate inside the party over - they have been angry about who has been fastest to defend her and how quickly and how enthusiastically. And I think you've seen - Rashida Tlaib, who's a Democrat from Michigan, is the other Muslim woman in Congress. And she had a really interesting response in which she called out Democratic leaders for not doing enough and suggesting that they were tokenizing women of color in the caucus, where they're happy to use their images to promote diversity but not defend them.

And so the speaker, when she was asked about it, initially kind of deferred and said she wasn't ready to comment. Although, over the weekend, she obviously did call for the security review and call - excuse me - call on the president to take down the video, which he has not as of now.

INSKEEP: You've also got tape here from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, another freshman member of Congress.

DAVIS: Well, Democrats see this as part of a more broader political strategy. And here's what she said.

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ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: We are getting to a level where this is an incitement of violence against progressive women of color.

DAVIS: An incitement of violence. And her point was that the Republican Party uses images of people like her, like Ilhan Omar, like Rashida Tlaib and are trying to paint a picture of a party that is extreme or holds political views that is not in line with the country.

INSKEEP: Well, let's make that clear. The president, by highlighting Ilhan Omar, makes that the subject. This is about deciding what we're going to talk about, and the president determines that. Democrats - are they embracing Ilhan Omar as the face of their party, given some of her past controversial comments about Israel and so forth? Do they want her to be the face of their party?

DAVIS: I don't think they see her as the face of the party. But I certainly think that they see an attempt by the president and the Republican Party to make her that. And that is where you're going to see this debate going forward.

INSKEEP: Susan, thanks so much.

DAVIS: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: NPR's Susan Davis.

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INSKEEP: Winter has been coming for the characters on "Game Of Thrones" ever since the first season aired in 2011.

GREENE: Yeah. Last night, the most expensive, most watched, most accoladed scripted drama series in HBO history came one step closer to its end. The show aired the final episode of its eighth and final season.

INSKEEP: NPR TV critic Eric Deggans has been up all night reflecting on what was. Hey there, Eric.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Hi.

INSKEEP: OK, lot of hype going into last night. You were watching, I assume.

DEGGANS: I was watching, and I was enjoying it. I should first - we should first deliver a spoiler alert because I'm going to talk a little bit about what happened on Sunday's episode. But I thought it was one of those really good table-setting episodes where they kind of put characters and plot in place that you know are going to happen later. Fans of the show know that "Game Of Thrones" tends to do that with its first episode of the season.

And we saw a lot of characters come together that hadn't seen each other in a while. So there was a lot of emotional kind of reunions and a lot of history playing out and characters that were one way when they met each other early in the season, and they were - they had a very different dynamic later in the season. And of course, the hero, Jon Snow, found out that he's actually related to the woman that he's in love with, and he may have a really strong claim to the Iron Throne that rules the Seven Kingdoms. So, you know, there's that.

INSKEEP: OK, you got that. So we're talking to two different strands of people here, Eric, automatically - people who are watching "Game Of Thrones" and people who have been told this is so complicated that if you haven't started yet, don't even bother starting because it's just too much for you possibly to understand. But help those who are in that latter category. Why is this show so important, if you haven't been watching it?

DEGGANS: Well, I would say it's the most popular high-quality show on television. So it takes the production values of a major motion picture, like "Lord Of The Rings," you know, sword-and-sorcery epic with lots of special effects, and it brings it to television. And you know, it also proved that a show with a really complex storyline, a show that has a lot of characters with names that sound the same and this very convoluted sort of history of characters bouncing off each other, that it could become really popular.

And a lot of shows that are this complex, when they get to their sixth or seventh season, they get so complex that even fans can't follow them anymore. But "Game Of Thrones" has managed to keep people engaged, keep everything interesting and exciting, even after all the similar names and even after taking off almost two years between the seventh season and this eighth season.

INSKEEP: Eric, I just want to note, we have houseguests, and they're "Game Of Thrones" people. And so we had to set up everything so they could watch right at 9 o'clock. And that was - I realized, wow, like, right at its...

DEGGANS: Yeah. Never happens.

INSKEEP: ...Actual, old-time appointment viewing...

DEGGANS: (Laughter).

INSKEEP: ...Like, of a sort that people kind of don't have to do anymore. This show is different.

DEGGANS: Well, in a way, it's different. I mean, there are several other shows that are like that. You know, there are several - excuse me, I'm sorry.

INSKEEP: That's all right.

DEGGANS: There are several other shows like that, shows that have - that air on HBO, on Showtime, on AMC. They also drop once a week. But this is a unique show. We will not see its like again. And people should enjoy it while they can because we've only got five more episodes to go.

INSKEEP: OK. Eric, thanks so much.

DEGGANS: Thank you.

INSKEEP: NPR's Eric Deggans.

(SOUNDBITE OF RAMIN DJAWADI'S "THE QUEEN'S JUSTICE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.