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Trump Pushes for More Separation of Families on the Southern Border, Amping Up Attacks on Immigrants

Web ExclusiveApril 09, 2019
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President Trump is pushing for more separation of families on the border as he intensifies his crackdown on immigration and purges the leadership of the Department of Homeland Security. Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and the director of the Secret Service have already been removed as Trump puts hard-line adviser Stephen Miller in charge of the nation’s immigration policy. This comes a month after President Trump signed his first presidential veto, after lawmakers in both houses of Congress voted in favor of a resolution reversing his declaration of a national emergency on the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump claimed there was an “invasion” occurring on the southern border. We host a roundtable discussion with Erika Andiola, chief advocacy officer for RAICES, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services; Dr. David Glosser, the uncle of Trump adviser Stephen Miller; and Democracy Now! correspondent and producer Renée Feltz, who has long reported on the criminalization of immigrants, family detention and the business of detention.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue with Part 2 of our discussion about President Trump pushing for more separation of families on the border as he intensifies his crackdown on immigration and purges the leadership of the Department of Homeland Security. Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and the director of the Secret Service have already been ousted, as Trump puts hard-line adviser Stephen Miller in charge of the nation’s immigration policy, this coming a month after President Trump signed his first presidential veto, after lawmakers in both houses of Congress voted in favor of a resolution reversing his declaration of a national emergency on the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump claimed there was an “invasion” occurring on the southern border.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Congress’s vote to deny the crisis on the southern border is a vote against reality. It’s against reality. It is a tremendous national emergency. It is a tremendous crisis. Last month, more than 76,000 illegal migrants arrived at our border. We’re on track for a million illegal aliens to rush our borders. People hate the word “invasion,” but that’s what it is. It’s an invasion of drugs and criminals and people. We have no idea who they are. … We’re bursting at the seams. You can only do so much. And the only option then is to release them. But we can’t do that, either, because when you release them, they come into our society. And in many cases, they’re stone cold criminals. And in many cases, and in some cases, you have killers coming in and murderers coming in. And we’re not going to allow that to happen.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that is President Trump on the day of his veto ceremony. His remarks, as he talked about an “invasion” from the south, came just hours after a white supremacist terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, an attack on two mosques that killed 50 people. The gunman had issued a manifesto that day where he also described immigrants as “invaders.” In the same manifesto, the New Zealand gunman praised Trump as a “symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”

We continue our conversation now with three guests: Erika Andiola, chief advocacy officer for RAICES, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, in Phoenix Arizona; also Renée Feltz, Democracy Now! correspondent, joining us in our studios here in New York; and from Philadelphia, Dr. David Glosser, the uncle of Trump adviser Stephen Miller, Stephen Miller who Trump has made the point person on immigration. David Glosser is a retired neuropsychologist and former faculty member at Boston University School of Medicine and Jefferson Medical College in Pennsylvania. Glosser works with refugees in Philadelphia. Last year, he wrote a piece for Politico headlined “Stephen Miller Is an Immigration Hypocrite. I Know Because I’m His Uncle.”

I want to start with Dr. David Glosser. When you heard President Trump once again referring to immigrants as “invaders,” talking about an “invasion”—we last spoke to you, Dr. Glosser, after the Pittsburgh massacre of 11 Jewish worshipers at a place where they had recently held a refugee Shabbat. The attacker referred to the “invaders” and “invasions,” just as Trump continually repeated afterwards as well as before. Can you comment on this and whether you’ve had a conversation with your nephew, Stephen Miller, who has now, looks like, consolidated power at the White House under Trump against immigrants?

DR. DAVID GLOSSER: Yeah, Amy, you’re exactly correct. The minute—the moment I heard of the Christchurch massacre—it just so happened my daughter was in Christchurch that day. As soon as I heard about it, it obviously brought very clearly to mind the slaughter in Pittsburgh of the 11 people at prayer. And as you point out, the murderer, the terrorist that committed these acts, was a white supremacist, who in fact was inflamed by the rhetoric of Donald Trump and who cited these. And he was upset because the synagogue had been one of the organizations supporting the HIAS, which is an immigrant aid association. And he used the words “invaders,” and he’s going to—he’s going to do something about it.

So, here we have—you know, the president is spewing vitriol for months, and it’s sort of like an arsonist who sprays gasoline and then claims innocence to the judge because he didn’t—you know, he sprayed the gasoline, but he didn’t strike the match. And so, here we have—we’re seeing the same thing over again now.

Now, the other part of your question is: Have I spoken to Stephen Miller? Only in a public way. You know, I don’t know Stephen well. I’ve never had what you’d call a close relationship.

AMY GOODMAN: How are you related to him?

DR. DAVID GLOSSER: He is my sister’s son, one of my sister’s children. And his policies in this regard seem to be—have been really the cause célèbre of his life. He started off at a very early age as a provocateur, you know, appearing on right-wing radio programs and so forth, as a barely pubescent adolescent. And it seems that’s pretty much the only thing he’s ever done, is work in—is his work on this. He’s a true believer.

And by his actions—I don’t know him closely enough personally to know what his innermost feelings are, nor do I care, frankly. But by his actions, it’s clear that this has been in service of white supremacists. You judge a person by the company they keep, in many respects, and he’s kept close company with white supremacists. He’s used the same phraseology, the same manner of critique, the same criticisms, the same insults and the same accusations as the white supremacist groups. He is their darling.

AMY GOODMAN: Would your family have been allowed—

DR. DAVID GLOSSER: If you take a—

AMY GOODMAN: —allowed in this country, would Stephen Miller’s family, would Stephen Miller be here, if it weren’t for coming, being allowed to come into the United States, fleeing persecution?

DR. DAVID GLOSSER: Yeah, our family, at least our side of the family, the Glosser side of the family, emigrated from Belarus in 1906, fleeing from tsarist repression and from pogroms and from kidnapping of young boys for lifelong servitude in the army, and a million other problems that had been going on for centuries.

We did well in the United States. But had we not been allowed to—had my great-grandfather and my grandfather and the rest of our immediate family not been allowed to immigrate to the United States, they would have met the same fate as the 74 of our extended family who did not manage to come over because of exclusionary immigration laws in the United States in 1925. And those 74 members of our family, they were all murdered in the Holocaust, because we couldn’t get them out in the 1930s, because there was no place that would take them, and certainly not the United States, not other countries, either. So they were all murdered, along with hundreds of thousands and, frankly, just millions of people who would have been able perhaps to find refuge, had there not been racial and ethnic hatreds exercised against them.

And so, would Stephen have existed? Of course not. I wouldn’t have existed. The Jewish population in the United States, most of them would not have existed. So, yeah, it’s a stunning—

AMY GOODMAN: In fact, Anne Frank—

DR. DAVID GLOSSER: —stunning act of hypocrisy.

AMY GOODMAN: Anne Frank’s father had applied twice to try to come into the United States to save his family—of course, the famous Diary of Anne Frank—and he was denied.

DR. DAVID GLOSSER: There were hundreds of thousands of such attempts. And American Jewish families were desperate to get their remaining relatives out of Europe but could not do so, because the State Department at that time was deeply anti-Semitic, and Roosevelt found that he was unable to overcome this political blockade from opposition parties. And if he wanted to get any part of his programs through, he would have to—he would have had to run over them. But there was not the political will to do it, on anybody’s part. And so, these people had no place to run to, and they were all murdered.

AMY GOODMAN: So, it was particularly interesting that President Trump chose to give, this past weekend, what might have been his most vicious, vitriolic anti-immigrant speech ever in front of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

DR. DAVID GLOSSER: Yeah, let me speak to that, Amy, for a moment. You know, the Pew Research Center publishes figures on this and on many other subjects, of course. But historically, roughly 70 to 75% of American Jews have self-identified as Democrats, and that’s been a pretty stable figure over the years and remains so. However, there are people who have somehow deluded themselves that the authoritarian bent of Trumpism will not fall on them, that if we mow down all the laws, all the regulations, all the liberal democratic institutions that we have relied on in the United States to keep us safe and to allow us to prosper, if all those are rebranded as deep state—deep state, anti-American institutions, if we get rid of all the tools of democracy, we’re a danger, too.

And to hear people cheer on Trump, and Jewish people cheer on Trump in this regard, they’re deluding themselves. The only thing that keeps us safe in this country has not been—in past epochs in Jewish history, our golden eras have always been very brief and only at the pleasure of popes or caliphs or kings who were willing to tolerate us. The United States, we haven’t depended upon that. The United States, we and other people are protected by democratic institutions. And Trump wants to sweep those away, thinking—you know, interested only in his own power, his own prestige, his own ego and staying in office a little bit longer, so that he can avoid or weather more investigatory pressures. But to hear Jews cheering in support of Trump is a real pain, a real pain in my heart.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to—before we go to Erika Andiola in the border state of Arizona, Democracy Now! correspondent Renée Feltz, specifically on the record of Stephen Miller and the consolidation of immigration policy under him at the White House right now, as one person after another is ousted in the Department of Homeland Security?

RENÉE FELTZ: There are so few people in the top leadership of DHS who have been confirmed by the Senate for their positions. It’s wide open. He’s sort of the last person standing. It’s interesting, real quick, before we look at his impact going forward, two things that I thought of when—it’s unfortunate that we have a person who just left the administration who prompted so many Nazi references. But, you know, when you talk about people being turned away seeking asylum, Kirstjen Nielsen helped implement the policy of turning people away who came between official ports of entry. When we were at the border this last summer, we saw Border Patrol officials turning people away. And Nielsen said, if you get turned away there and you try to come through some other way, not at a port of entry, and present yourself, we will also turn you away there, and you will be ineligible to apply for asylum.

Also interestingly, as we have heard, Nielsen was sort of on the ropes with Trump. And one of the ways she won his favor was to tear-gas people at the border. So we’re talking about gassing people and turning them away. You know, again, these references, which are just really—

AMY GOODMAN: Not to mention putting children in cages.

RENÉE FELTZ: Exactly. So, so many creepy references.

Now, briefly, I wanted to say, about Stephen Miller, he’s actually encouraged some other changes at DHS. He wants to remove the longtime DHS official Francis Cissna, who heads U.S. Citizenship and Immigration. And he has urged for the removal and the departure of DHS general counsel—in other words, the lawyer keeping track of what’s legal here—John Mitnick, and he’s reportedly stepping down.

Meanwhile, Miller has installed other hard-liners, like Gene Hamilton, who is a former aide to Jeff Sessions, just like Miller. And he worked to suspend the protections for DREAMers and DACA. And then, also, Miller helped put Julie Kirchner in, who’s the former head of this fringe, right-wing, anti-immigrant group FAIR.

Finally, a quick anecdote that I read about with Miller and his efforts to push out Nielsen, apparently, Quartz reported that Miller would rely on a special trick where he would get the latest numbers on the apprehensions of asylum seekers. And we’ve heard now they’re saying there could maybe be 100,000 people apprehended at the border in March alone. And often Miller would get these numbers in advance, before DHS and Nielsen had time to craft their messages around them. He would leak them to papers like the Washington Examiner, then print those issues out and show them to Trump to make his arguments, around Nielsen, and to push for harder policies.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to Erika Andiola, who’s there on the ground. As President Trump talks about the men with tattooed faces weeping and saying they were afraid to go home, the fact of the matter is, on the border, most people trying to come over—is this correct?—are women and children. And if you can talk about what’s happening, what’s changing right now, and your response to Trump and Stephen Miller, but, most importantly, the president of the United States, who’s elected, talking about, once again, increasing family separations, even as the government admits that there are something like 2,000 families they haven’t kept track of and that will take years to try to find them and bring them together, if they ever even try to find them?

ERIKA ANDIOLA: Yeah. It’s really—you know, first of all, separations are still happening. That is still—that is still the reality. You know, we at RAICES are still working with families who are continuously calling us, either because they can’t find where their child is or, you know, trying to figure out how we can best support them, in general.

But, you know, speaking to your question about who’s coming, it’s not who Trump is talking about. And it’s frustrating for me to hear that, because we’re the ones who are always—you know, every single day we’re actually meeting with clients who are telling us their stories of where they’re coming from, Central America and other countries. And it’s not that they’re—you know, they’re actually running away from violence. They’re actually running away from, really, you know, I would say, experiences that a lot of Americans are never going to go through, and that a lot of people don’t really understand. And if I was—you know, I’m not a mother, but if I was a mother and if I was seeing my child either being recruited by a gang or being threatened by a gang or just living in such harsh realities and poverty, I would also figure out how I can take my child to a better place. You know, that’s what my mother did, as well, coming to the U.S.

And so, he doesn’t speak about that. He doesn’t speak about that because he wants to create this fear among the American people. And it is our job to continue to tell the real stories and what is actually happening and the actual people who are coming, and allow them to tell their own stories. And, you know, that’s what we’re trying to do every single day. And that’s what—you know, it’s going to change the narrative that Trump is creating.

AMY GOODMAN: Before the courts are changed, Erika, a federal judge has temporarily blocked the Trump administration’s policy that forces asylum seekers to return to and remain in Mexico while their cases are being considered. There have been a number of cases that have been ruled on behalf of immigrants in a favorable way. What about the significance of this?

ERIKA ANDIOLA: Yeah, I mean, this is—you know, it was said in the show already. This is really one of—you know, a huge win for us. And we have had a lot of wins happening through courts, and we’re going to continue to challenge him in court, because a lot of the policies that he has created are basically just based in politics—right?—just trying to convey a political message, rather than being smart or legal.

And so, this is one of the policies, what they call MPP, or “return to Mexico” or “remain in Mexico,” I must say. And it was proven that it was an illegal policy. And we actually have—you know, one of our clients is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against MPP or “remain in Mexico.” And, you know, she’s actually LGBT. She was running away from Central America because she was getting targeted for being a lesbian in Central America. And, you know, she was turned away when she asked for asylum. She has been in Mexico this entire time.

And many, many more people are—at this point, there’s thousands of people. The numbers are increasing, and they’re shown to be pretty big numbers, of folks who are at the border right now, either homeless, not being able to provide for their children, and just waiting to see what the United States says about their case. And so, the fact that this was—that the judge decided that this was illegal and that it shouldn’t continue to happen, it’s a pretty big win for asylum seekers to be able to get the chance that they deserve to be able to come into the United States and be away from violence, poverty and other conditions in Central America and other countries.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s talk about the 2020 elections. They’re certainly upon us. Erika, if you can talk about who you’re looking at? We now have a Democratic pool of something like 18 announced candidates. How important are the 2020 elections to you right now?

ERIKA ANDIOLA: They’re very important. You know, there’s—what Trump is doing right now, and what he has done even before he got elected in 2016, was that he created this narrative through campaigning. And we have a chance right now, and I would—you know, I continue to encourage candidates and their campaigns, I continue to encourage those who are right now speaking to the issue as they campaign, that this is their chance to actually tell the truth and use the platform of all these folks, you know, debating each other—and there’s a lot of them—right?—in the Democratic side—being able to actually talk about the truth.

And I would hope that we don’t go back to the Obama era, right? We don’t go back to being Democrats, you know, saying it’s OK to deport people, it’s OK to send children back, as a message—right?—to migrants not to come. That’s not what the Democratic Party should be anymore. And I really look forward to seeing all the different platforms in detail, that it’s not enough to say, “I love DREAMers, and I want comprehensive immigration reform.” That is not enough right now, because Trump has really created a disastrous, you know, a terrible immigration system that needs to—it should have been fixed a long time ago. But now, you know, more than ever, we have an urgency to make sure that whoever comes into office is able to undo what Trump has done in this moment, and including what we just talked about in this entire show.

AMY GOODMAN: Erika, in 2016, you were the Latino outreach strategist for Bernie Sanders. Have you chosen a side yet? Have you chosen a candidate? Will you be working with Bernie Sanders, for example?

ERIKA ANDIOLA: You know, right now I’m really focused on helping as many people as I can through my role in RAICES, which, you know, it’s one of the organizations that has been at the forefront of fighting against all these terrible policies from the Trump administration and also really helping the immigrant community and the migrant community. And for me right now, it’s not really about taking a side yet. It’s really about seeing who is going to be there to really, like I said, tell the truth of what’s going on at the border, what’s going on inside of the country. People are still getting deported. You know, I still have DACA. I haven’t been able to have a path to citizenship. And a lot of our communities are still hurting. And so, I want to make sure that every single one of these candidates is, again, speaking the truth and that they actually have a really progressive—not even just progressive, a humane immigration policy they’re going to push forward, if they’re elected.

AMY GOODMAN: Renée Feltz, you’ve been following the candidates when it comes to the issue of immigration.

RENÉE FELTZ: That’s right, Amy. I want to say two things about this 2020 election, as we turn to that. One is, I think, again, it brings up the legacy of Kirstjen Nielsen and the impact of Stephen Miller. Trump, as Erika talked about, ran on a position, when he ran for president, a anti-immigrant, xenophobic position. Then, again, in the 2020 elections and the midterms, he put his policies on the ballot. And now Trump is going to take this hate speech on the road for his campaigning again. And it’s really about creating a manufactured crisis. He doesn’t have that many people in powerful positions at DHS? That’s fine with him. He’s interested, I think, in continuing to create chaos. And one thing he’s done, again, is lead to the shakeup at DHS, we saw Nielsen given the opportunity to resign.

And with that, we see the incoming person, from Customs and Border Protection, Kevin McAleenan, also having a history that has been critiqued, in this case by some of the Democratic presidential candidates. Julián Castro was very critical at the time when McAleenan spoke to Congress and did not report that 7-year-old Jakelin, a 7-year-old from Guatemala, had died in custody. And it came out later that she actually was—got very ill, while she was in custody for hours. She was in misery. And at first, people like McAleenan and Nielsen had blamed her family for bringing her to seek safety and putting her in danger, when that’s clearly a mischaracterization of the situation. And Castro also spoke out very strongly against McAleenan, and now he’s one of the candidates that’s come up with a strong immigration platform. As Erika said, you know, the devil is in the details. We have to see exactly if they’re going to separate immigrant communities and throw some of them under the bus, as it were, and say that it’s OK to deport some while we keep others. We’ve seen that in the past from Democrats, and we’ll see if we see it again. But it’s going to be a major issue in the 2020 election.

And, you know, we talked earlier about some of the dangerous situations that are created with Trump’s hate speech and his xenophobic message. And I have to say that people have expressed concerns about seeing this message amplified, you know, as we go into this long campaign toward 2020 again. And Trump relies on that, that slice of his base that this message, this anti-immigrant message, resonates with, in order to ride to re-election again.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, Dr. David Glosser, in Philadelphia, you talked about politics, as well, and the importance of who is chosen to be in the White House. Now it’s your nephew. Now it is Stephen Miller at the side of President Trump, as President Trump’s Cabinet is increasingly—well over half of the people have not been confirmed by the Senate, acting this and acting that, which many talk about are the indications of, are deeply concerned about, an authoritarian government, when Democratic leaders are not involved with the choosing of their leaders at this highest level. What are you doing as we lead into 2020 and the presidential elections?

DR. DAVID GLOSSER: Yeah, I think your other commentators are exactly correct in their analysis. And we see that, you know, Trump will find, and searching for, lower- or lower-level functionaries who will carry out his essentially unethical and illegal acts towards immigrant populations.

My aim now is to continue to help with the organizations of Physicians for Human Rights and HIAS and others, to try to help protect immigrants, to try to help protect migrants, to protect the refugees. I’m also trying to support candidates for office who will stand up for the truth, stand up for the rule of law and equal protection under the law. And that’s what I think everybody should do.


DR. DAVID GLOSSER: These folks that we’re seeing in our—go ahead.

AMY GOODMAN: Sorry, we’re losing you right now, so we’re going to have to leave it there. Dr David Glosser—

DR. DAVID GLOSSER: OK. Very good. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Thank you so much for joining us. Dr. David Glosser, uncle of Stephen Miller, the immigration point person for President Trump in the White House. Dr. Glosser is a retired neuropsychologist and former faculty member at Boston University School of Medicine and Jefferson Medical College in Pennsylvania. Glosser works as a volunteer with refugees in Philadelphia, last year wrote the piece in Politico, that we will link to, headlined “Stephen Miller Is an Immigration Hypocrite. I Know Because I’m His Uncle.” And Erika Andiola, thanks for joining us from Phoenix, chief advocacy officer for RAICES, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, joining us from the border state of Arizona, joining us from Phoenix. And, Renée Feltz, Democracy Now! correspondent and producer, long reported on the criminalization of immigrants, family detention and the business of detention.

This is Democracy Now!, To see our coverage, the Part 1 of this conversation, that we had with Juan González, as well as our guests, go to I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us.

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