There's A Massive Divide In The House Over Immigration
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
We find out very soon if House Republicans agree on what to do about immigration. The House voted on a bill last week and defeated it. They delayed a vote on a second bill that's considered more moderate and meet today to discuss it. The Republicans with a vote will include Jim Jordan of Ohio. People who follow Congress will know him as a co-founder of the conservative Freedom Caucus. And he joins us now from Statuary Hall, this cavernous room full of statues in the Capitol.
Congressman, good morning.
JIM JORDAN: Good morning. Good to be with you guys.
INSKEEP: OK. So we should note, as we said, this conservative bill failed last week. There's what's considered a more moderate bill that's been delayed. President Trump has said he has endorsed it but also said you shouldn't bother to vote at all. Do you feel you know what the president wants?
JORDAN: Yeah. He wants what we told the American people we're going to do. He wants a border security wall. He wants to end chain migration, wants to stop the visa lottery, wants to get rid of this crazy sanctuary city policy. He wants to reform our asylum laws. And we want to deal with the DACA population. And oh, by the way, the bill that went down by just a few votes last week would have accomplished all that.
And the reason the compromise or the more moderate bill wasn't brought to the floor last week is 'cause it was going to get a lot less votes than the conservative measure, which by the way, last week, based on the absences and who was here, we only needed 19 more votes to pass that bill. So we were told all along by our leadership that the Goodlatte legislation, the conservative bill...
JORDAN: ...Didn't have the votes to get there. And yet we were that close to making it.
INSKEEP: All right, you've put a lot on the table. I hope we get to discuss just a little bit of it. But can you help me understand why it is that neither of these measures seems to have enough votes to pass if it does everything you say it does?
JORDAN: Well, I think the conservative bill - if there would have been a serious whip effort on the part of the leadership, it would have passed. We were that - when you start with 193 votes - I mean, again, we were told all along, oh, this only has 150, 160. We can't pass it.
JORDAN: And then when they put it on the floor in front of God and everybody, it got 193 with virtually no real whip effort. So that was the one that was consistent with what we told the American people we were going to do. And like I always say, it never hurts to keep your promise.
INSKEEP: Well, this more moderate bill - I understand a number of members of the Freedom Caucus that you're a part of, that they have opposed this.
INSKEEP: It seems that one of the reasons is that it would include an eventual path to citizenship for people in the DACA program, people who were brought here as children and don't have legal status today. Is that the reason that some members of your caucus are reluctant to say they'll vote yes on that one?
JORDAN: There's lots of reasons. Remember, we were willing to allow the DACA individuals to stay here. Frankly, I think many of our members are willing to even allow those individuals a pathway to citizenship as long as it's not unique, as long as it's not special and as long as it's done in conjunction with all the good border security measures I just talked about and that we all campaigned on. So that's why the Goodlatte legislation, which - oh, by the way - was a compromise for us conservatives - that's why it's such a good bill and the one that should pass. So yeah, there's different reasons, but some of it is what you described.
INSKEEP: Let me make sure that I understand what it is that you would like to happen first with asylum-seekers who are arriving at the border now. President Trump has, at least for the moment, ended the policy of separating parents from children - wants to hold them in custody, although he can only do that for a few weeks at most - 20 days at most. What do you want to happen to those asylum-seekers?
JORDAN: We want those who legitimately are entitled to asylum, they should get it. But when I met with ICE just two weeks ago, they said 80 percent of the individuals seeking asylum are not eligible for it. They've been coached what to say, but they're not actually eligible for it under the rule of law. So of course we want to keep families together, but we want to do it in a way that's consistent with the law. And we want to allow people who legitimately needs asylum to get in. But others who don't, they should not be permitted to come here. That's been clear, and that's just following the law. But they should be (inaudible) family as they go through the process so we can make a real determination.
INSKEEP: Why not just get more people down there to interview asylum-seekers or get them before judges in the cases where that's necessary? You can make a decision.
JORDAN: Because Chuck Schumer won't vote for it. There's a bill in the Senate right now, Senator Cruz's bill. Congressman Meadows has a bill in the House, and Chuck Schumer said they're not going to support it. So yeah, this just highlights the fact that the Democrats don't want to solve the problem. They want catch-and-release. They want open borders. And they want the (unintelligible) issue. So yeah, I'm all for that. But...
INSKEEP: Well, we'll just note that...
JORDAN: ...The Senate minority leader has been real clear. He said he's not going to let that legislation happen.
INSKEEP: Well, we'll just note that Democrats would not describe their policy as open borders. But I hear you. I want to ask about...
JORDAN: What else is it, Steve? If it's catch-and-release - if they're saying....
INSKEEP: (Laughter) We'll just mention that...
JORDAN: ...You've got to keep families together, you can only hold them for 20 days - what else is it?
INSKEEP: There are....
JORDAN: Tell me what else it is, though.
INSKEEP: Congressman, there are numerous other options, like alternatives to detention, which have been discussed on this program. But I just want to ask about one other thing, Congressman, and it's what the bottom-line goal is here. Michael Anton, former aide to the president on the National Security Council, wrote a really interesting op-ed the other day. And the headline was, "Why Do We Need More People In This Country, Anyway?" emphasizing that he'd just really like less immigration, didn't think that the case for immigration had been made. Is the actual goal of people on your side of the argument just to have fewer people coming into the country, period?
JORDAN: The actual goal is to enforce the law. Every sovereign nation has the right to know who is coming into their country. Are they doing it legally? Are they willing to assimilate and be a part of our great culture and our great country? It's not about what number the immigration level is going to be or not letting anyone in. That's not been our position, not my position, not the conservative position. But it is about following the law and making sure when people come here, they come here legally.
INSKEEP: Congressman, thanks very much. Pleasure talking with you.
JORDAN: You bet.
INSKEEP: OK. That's Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio from Statuary Hall at the Capitol. NPR's Scott Detrow is here in NPR studios.
Scott, what did you hear there? What struck you?
SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: I think the bottom line is that the Republican Party still has a massive divide within itself that it can't solve. If it could solve this divide, they would have had a vote on this measure. Instead, it's repeatedly having the same conversation over and over again and having votes delayed. And the problem is President Trump has set a broad parameter for a bill he wants. Because of that, Democrats aren't going to be part of the conversation. The Republicans have to solve it themselves.
INSKEEP: OK. So there is this more moderate legislation. We don't know what happens with it. We'll continue following it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.