Republican Roundtable On Immigration
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
The passionate debate sparked by the Trump administration's zero-tolerance immigration policies has only gotten more heated. Protesters took to the streets across the country yesterday outraged by the president's hardline views on immigration. Meanwhile, Congress went on recess for the Fourth of July without making any progress on immigration legislation. We wanted to know how voters are thinking about this issue. Elsewhere in the show, we'll be talking with Democrats about what they think America's immigration policy should look like. But first, three Republicans.
DAVID PODURGIEL: We need stronger borders. I mean, I'm a Trump voter. And I voted for him, like many others did, and that's why he's our president because one of his promises - he was going to have stronger borders for us.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's David Podurgiel of Pittsburgh, Pa.. He works in the tugboat industry. Michael Sabat of Dallas, Texas, is a registered nurse. He came to this country from the Philippines.
MICHAEL SABAT: As an immigrant I have a lot of compassion for immigrants that come here. However, I do also believe that we need to follow laws and there has to be a standard, otherwise it will just be anarchy at the border.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And Becky Ravenkamp of Verdigre, Neb., works in the farming industry. She wants to see action on immigration now.
BECKY RAVENKAMP: This problem has been around since I was a child. I remember hearing about these exact same issues when I was a kid, and I think it's time now to finally address it.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'd like to talk about the family separation policy, which has so polarized this nation, and it's really galvanized a lot of public opinion. And I just very briefly would like to hear all three of your points of view. And let's start with you, Michael, and then Becky, and then back to you, David.
SABAT: First off, I totally disagree with the separation of families. I mean, anybody who's been to the border - and I've lived in McAllen, Texas, for many years of my life. I went through high school there in McAllen, Texas. And, I know, I hear stories all the time of, like, people coming across the border. But separating children from their mothers and, you know, coming across, it's cruel. So, you know, I do applaud Trump administration for stopping this, you know, with their executive order. However, that should not have happened.
RAVENKAMP: Yeah. Anytime that you put children in there, the emotions really run high. And I guess my question is - we've heard from the agents at the border saying that there are so many cases of children being used by smugglers that they really have to do a good job of investigating every family that comes across that border to determine whether or not that child is a child at risk or if this really is a family unit. As far as actual family units, I would prefer that those families are housed together so that the parents and the children can be together. Unfortunately, when you cross the border illegally, you are breaking the law. The adults are responsible for those children. They need to make better choices for their family units.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: David, we should say that in fact even people who work in immigration say that the number of cases that have shown that children are not actually family units is extremely low. And many of these people are actually wanting to ask for asylum because they're fleeing their home countries that are in the grips of gang violence or they're facing domestic violence and asylum is a legal process that is here in the United States. So, David, what is your view?
PODURGIEL: On the asylum part, well, I think, you know, sadly the issue needs to be taken care of in their country first, and that's what's not happening. I mean, if you want to seek asylum for gang violence, we have it here in the United States. You have it in L.A., Chicago, here in Pittsburgh. And so I don't agree with that being a good reason to leave. You know, and then a lot of these people, I think some of them are exposed to this violence and they - maybe they're going to bring it with them, you know, depending on - I don't think it's everybody coming to the border is just family and children. So I know we're up against a tough cookie here trying to figure out, you know, who's legit and who isn't.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Where do you all get your information on the immigration debate? I mean, what are you looking at? Who are you listening to?
RAVENKAMP: Yeah, so I actually have a couple of people that I have met through the American Agri-Women organization. And one of the women that I've met through a leadership program is a rancher in Arizona who has said you have got to shut this border down. And this was several years ago, and she repeated it to me again today that it is so dangerous that they are forced to carry firearms when they go out and check their cows in Arizona for fear that they would have to protect themselves against illegal immigrants coming across the border. On the flipside of that, I met a woman from Arizona who said, I'm really sorry that your family has that issue, but if you shut that border down, my family will go bankrupt because we rely on the migrant workers to harvest our crops.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, Becky, you bring up a great point here, which is that there's two things that get conflated in the immigration debate - right? - which is illegal immigration, people crossing the border when they don't have permission, and then legal immigration. And we've seen that the Trump administration would also like to restrict legal immigration. And there are industries that are having a hard time functioning without immigrant labor - restaurants, farming. So, David, I'm going to put it to you. What should our legal immigration system look like? The Trump administration would like to see a merit-based system. What's your view?
PODURGIEL: Well, I would like a merit-based system, and I'd also like to see it streamlined. I personally - my wife and I helped sponsor a young man from Poland who got a green card, and we helped him along the system to become an American citizen. And I'll tell you what, it was an eye-opener, I mean, to make that kind of commitment to help somebody become a citizen. So I think that the system needs streamlined. I don't think it should take 5 or 10 years to become a citizen.
SABAT: Right now, I have - one of my best friends, he's from Taiwan. He's been here for many, many years, since he was in high school. He's got three more years before he could apply for citizenship, and he's a very productive nurse.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: We're now less than six months away from the midterm. You know, as you start thinking about who you're going to vote for, is immigration a top issue for you? Is it a motivating issue?
PODURGIEL: Yes, it's going to have an effect on how I handle this election. Here in Pennsylvania, I mean, I'm taking it more serious, not based on all the - just the immigration, but the sanctuary cities. So that's a driving force because I - you know, there's some re-elections, some people coming up for re-election this year that support that in Pennsylvania. And I'm definitely jumping on the side of the person or persons that will definitely put a stop to the sanctuary cities.
SABAT: Yes. Well, immigration is one of the biggest issues for the election this coming fall. However, I think it would be secondary to the primary - my primary issue, which is economic issue. I think it shows to the rest of the world how strong the American economy is compared to the rest of the world, why they're coming here.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do you talk about this issue with people across the aisle? In our previous roundtable, we had a Democratic voter who was married to a Trump voter. They seemed to have some interesting discussions. So I'm just wondering if it feels like too hot a topic or you are engaging in this with people that you may know that have a different view?
SABAT: I talk constantly with this with a lot of my friends, especially online. Like I mentioned, I have lived in McAllen, Texas, in Hidalgo County in down south Texas, and that's a heavily Democratic area. And most of my friends over there are Democrats, so we speak. We talk about it. It's very cordial and civil so far.
RAVENKAMP: I actually have not talked to anybody on the other side of the aisle, but I think if you can get moderate people together, it wouldn't be a problem. It's not that I'm avoiding this topic with anybody. I just don't have anybody on the other side of the aisle that I see on a regular basis at this point in time.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. David?
PODURGIEL: I have a few. And surprisingly, the one - this is one area that we share a commonality. You know, we want a better system out there, and we don't like to see the system abused. So I can say that that's a very common - we all have a common denominator in this with the Democratic people that I know that I speak to.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: David Podurgiel, Becky Ravenkamp, and Michael Sabat, thank you so much for joining us.
RAVENKAMP: Thank you.
SABAT: Thank you.
PODURGIEL: Thank you for having us, Lulu. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.