Trump’s Immigration Policies in Biden’s White House (with Hamed Aleaziz)

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Julián and Sawyer unpack the importance of the Jan. 6 select committee investigating the Capitol insurrection (which Trump is now suing) and analyze new poll numbers that may be enlightening for some Democrats ahead of the midterm elections. They also welcome BuzzFeed News immigration reporter Hamed Aleaziz to break down the current administration’s decision to maintain two widely-criticized Trump-era policies.

Follow Hamed online at @Haleaziz.

Keep up with Julián on Twitter at @JulianCastro and Instagram at @JulianCastroTX. Sawyer can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @SawyerHackett. And stay up to date with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at @LemonadaMedia.

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Hamed Aleaziz, Becca, Julian Castro, Sawyer Hackett

Julian Castro  00:13

Hey there, I’m Julian Castro.

Sawyer Hackett 

And I’m Sawyer Hackett.

Julian Castro 

And welcome to OUR AMERICA. where we tackle some of the week’s leading political headlines impacting your community. On today’s show, we’re going to be joined by BuzzFeed news immigration reporter Hamed Aleaziz to unpack Title 42. And President Biden’s decision to move forward with reinstituting Trump’s remain in Mexico policy. But speaking of Trump, let’s start with the ongoing January 6 commission. So what’s happening there?

Sawyer Hackett 

Yeah, so bear with me. So I’m going to give you a little bit of history here. But you know, it’s been about nine months since 1000s of Trump supporters insurrectionists, inspired by his lies, stormed the US Capitol hoping to overturn the 2020 defeat of President Trump. Five people died, obviously as we know in that attack, either during or after the attack, and more than 130 police officers were injured. In February, Speaker Pelosi proposed a 9/11 type commission to investigate the attack. It ended up passing the house but and was supported by almost I think all Senate Democrats and six Senate Republicans, but ultimately it was not able to get over the senate filibuster, and so they were able to block that commission. The house then instead decided to form a select committee in July with the support of two Republicans, reps Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney. The committee has since held testimony from police officers who were on the front line of the insurrection. Folks remember that powerful testimony from officers Daniel Hodges and […] for example.

Sawyer Hackett 

Since then, the committee has sought records from members of Congress from Trump’s inner circle, including White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and the Trump golf Caddy and tweet editor Dan Scavino. And of course the Chief White House. White supremacist strategist Steve Bannon. Earlier this month, Trump announced that he would assert executive privilege to withhold documents from the committee. Of course, that’s not something he has authority to do as a former president. The Biden administration has said that they won’t honor his request and give the National Archives 30 days to before releasing that trove of documents to the committee. Meanwhile, Steve Bannon has told the committee he will not comply with the committee’s requests and did not appear on his October 14th deposition, sparking the committee to threaten him with criminal contempt. So now the ball is in the Justice Department’s court. And just Attorney General Merrick Garland has to decide whether they will prosecute those who are defying the committee’s orders. So hold on. I think the question is, you know, with the committee itself in jeopardy of falling apart, should Democrats lose control of the house in 2022? How important is it for this committee right now for congressional leadership and for the White House to get results from this commission to get to the truth here?

Julian Castro 

I mean, this is make or break. This is it. There is no way, no way that if Republicans take back the house, that this investigation is going anywhere. I mean, we’ve seen these guys turn on a dime on investigations before, we’ve also seen them sort of trumped-up investigations way beyond what they should have. Everybody remembers Benghazi and other Obama era investigations that the republicans used simply to try and cause political damage to Democrats here you actually have an investigation that is substantive that people could witness with their own eyes. You know, the problem, the crime, what they’re investigating everything that happened on January 6, and the question becomes, how much teeth are Democrats willing to put into this? I’m encouraged because so far, Chairman Bennie Thompson has said that they’re going to use their full power, their full subpoena power, that they’re forwarding to the house, a criminal contempt, charge that’s likely to come in the next couple of days against Steve Bannon and potentially other folks who have refused to appear before the committee.

Julian Castro  04:39

That’s the kind of teeth that they need to put into it. Both because that’s what’s deserved. That’s what the American people deserve. And also, because if you don’t, I mean, what message is that sending to everybody else down the line? They’ll laugh in Congress’ space. I mean, you Dealing with Steve Bannon. And basically what are other hardened criminals now, on the Trump, I mean, this guy already went to jail, he went to prison, and he got out, you know, because of Trump. I mean, so they just, they, you know, they found their nose now at Congress so easily, that if you don’t stop that kind of behavior by forwarding criminal contempt charges, pressing them as hard as you can, then, you know, you might as well throw in the towel the next time you want to investigate something seriously.

Sawyer Hackett 

Right. And I mean, I think it’s interesting, right? Like, I think if you explain to the average American, like, what happened at the Capitol, say they hadn’t heard of it, what happened at the Capitol, and that, you know, nine months later that there hasn’t been a full, you know, commissioned style investigation of that attack of the greatest attack on our democracy since the Civil War. They would be, they wouldn’t understand it, they wouldn’t get why that wouldn’t be a bipartisan thing. And, you know, this was supposed to be a bipartisan commission. Ultimately, it ended up being a bipartisan select Committee, but it appears, at least in Congress, like they’ve learned the lessons from the Trump years in that, you know, when Trump either decides to assert executive privilege, or he says he’s just going to ignore subpoenas that they’ve learned the lesson to say, you know, we’re not going around here, you know, we’re going to hold you in criminal contempt, especially people like Steve Bannon, I mean, he’s not the former president, he is this right wing lunatic. Who’s, you know, like the rest of them hawking diet pills and all this this garbage.  But I think ultimately…

Julian Castro  06:36

I mean, just so everybody understands, right? I mean, he’s, he’s trying to get in under the executive privilege that Trump is asserting. But the problem is, he was not in the executive branch at the time of these events, number one, and then there’s question as to whether Trump can assert executive privilege, even over some of the things he’s trying to assert executive privilege for himself much less for Steve Bannon.

Sawyer Hackett 

Well, even documents, I don’t think that the White House has control over I mean, the White House or the White House, the Trump administration, the Trump inner circle has sent letters to I think it’s five of these witnesses saying, don’t send anything to this committee, don’t comply with their requests, ignore them. You know, these are people who, you know, don’t work for Trump anymore. They didn’t work in the White House, as you mentioned, and Trump is essentially telling them to, you know, go ahead, leave yourself liable to criminal contempt. Well, I mean, I think the ultimate question here is whether Merrick Garland is going to step up and actually prosecute these charges, or if he’s going to let the ball pass. And I know that there’s a lot of debate, because this could ultimately drag on months, if not years to actually get the documents that they’re requesting. Some of them we’re going to get automatically from the National Archives. But I think, you know, the justice department needs to show their teeth here, or I think you’re right, that they set a precedent that other administration’s other potentially, criminally contempt. Presidents could ignore, you know, ignore Congress’s will when they assert it.

Julian Castro  08:11

Well, the Justice Department the other day got a little bit testy. If you saw that, basically, Biden or somebody close to him at the White House must have made a comment that made it seem like well, of course, the Justice Department is getting go ahead and pursue these charges, or would do that. And they released a statement, I hadn’t seen a statement like this before from them, saying that they’re gonna make their own decision. And they make that, you know, according to the law, this is such a change in many ways, refreshing from the Trump administration, where basically you had attorney general, serving in their roles who are lackeys of Donald Trump, and he used him as his own personal attorney. And most of them were complicit in doing that. At least you have a justice department that is saying, look, we’re gonna make our decisions, according to our analysis of the law and the facts of the circumstances and not based on any kind of political pressure. And I didn’t take what I don’t think Biden has been pressuring them to do one thing or another. But I have to say, look, guys at the Justice Department, men and women, I mean, everybody remembers what happened on January 6, what an attack it was on the Capitol, on those legislators on the Vice President.

Sawyer Hackett 

And just a few tourists come on.

Julian Castro 

I remember watching on January 6, like everybody else watching on cable news is this thing unfolded. Just dumbfounded like, what in the hell are we watching here? And how has it gotten this far that these folks haven’t been stopped? And then all of the recriminations that day in the next few days for a few days, it seemed like the republicans were on board with holding everybody accountable, who’ve been part of it. And then all of a sudden, they went back into their corner. And, you know, suggested tourists and who knows what happened and all of that, and that’s where they’re at now. But the videos don’t lie. You know, the testimony so far that they’ve gotten from those Capitol Police officers and others don’t doesn’t lie. The truth is that these folks broke the law. And we need to know how high up it went. And that’s why it’s important for the Justice Department to hold Steve Bannon and others accountable to provide the information and testimony they should provide.

Sawyer Hackett  10:41

Right. And I think part of I mean, I think part of why President Biden appointed Merrick Garland to the Attorney General’s position is because he wanted to restore that independence, that confidence that the American public has in the Department of Justice, as you know, as representing the American people and not representing the Biden administration itself. But at the same time, you know, a Justice Department hasn’t had to deal with an insurrection inspired by the executive branch before and, you know, unilaterally disarming and allowing these people to get away with it, and allowing members of Congress who may have assisted that effort to get away with it. You know, again, we just you set a precedent that that, you know, other presidents may follow down the road.

Julian Castro 

Well, this is gonna be a big week. And, you know, I’m hoping we’re gonna see criminal contempt charges recommended from the house, and then it’ll be in the Justice Department’s court.

Sawyer Hackett 

Right. We also, you know, wanted to talk a little bit about what’s going on in Congress. You know, there was a poll, you know, we keep talking over and over again about Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema. But I think that there was a poll that sort of really exposed how much energy there is behind some of these issues, whether it be the President’s agenda, the filibuster voting rights. Last week, data for progress released a new poll of Democratic primary voters in Arizona, they looked at support for President Biden, Senator Mark Kelly, and Senator Kyrsten Sinema. Overall, they found that President Biden had a net plus 71% approval among Democratic primary voters in Arizona, Senator Kelly had a plus 75% approval. And they found that Senator Sinema, who obviously has been, you know, pushed back on the administration’s Build Back Better agenda. She’s been a holdout on eliminating filibuster, she voted against raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, they found her with a disapproval of net negative 45 points.

Sawyer Hackett  12:45

She’s underwater in in every single demographic, Democrats, independents, men, women under 45, over 45, college educated, non-college educated, and they tested these for potential primary challengers against Sinema and found that every single one of them would defeat her in a head-to-head. So you know, voters are obviously dumbfounded by her actions since taking office. They’ve also been extremely frustrated that she hasn’t held a public event since taking office two years ago. It’s prompted a lot of people, a lot of journalists to ask, you know, what the hell does she want? What is this about she misreading the politics of her state? Is she planning to switch parties or change, you know, becoming independent? Or is she just corrupt as she bought by you know, big pharma or whoever else is pushing her to fight back against the President’s agenda? I don’t really care, doesn’t really matter. Who knows, let’s not try and get into her head because that seems pointless. But let’s talk about what it means for Democrats. How do you think, you know, Sinema and Manchin’s positioning on these things, impacts democrats heading into the midterm season? And do you think Joe Biden is doing enough right now to turn the screws on his own caucus to make sure that you can get these things done.

Julian Castro 

They’re doing damage, they’re doing damage right now to the enthusiasm out there among Democrats. The progressives feel like, okay, we all came together and pushed as hard as we could got Joe Biden elected. And one in Arizona, one in Georgia. So we have the Senate, have the house barely, but we have it on both counts. Here is our opportunity to get great things done. And some good stuff has gotten done. The American rescue plan comes to mind. The house voting to codify Roe versus Wade recently, there’s some good stuff that has gotten done or is in the process of getting done, but so many other things, whether it’s the freedom to vote Act, or immigration reform, this reconciliation package, that agenda hasn’t been produced, and we’re just talking about the politics of this. People care about delivering results. You’ve got to deliver results, especially when You’re talking about a midterm year, where enthusiasm usually wanes for the incumbent presidents party. And that’s one of the reasons that over the last 100 years in all buddy, very few instances, the incumbent presidents party has lost seats in the midterm.

Julian Castro  15:19

Well, we don’t have any seats left to lose. I mean, we only got what, like three, four or five people advantage in the House of Representatives, and we’re tied in the Senate, Sinema and Manchin, their vote is so important, because if we can get their vote, come to a compromise and get these things done. Then you’re going to glide into the midterms, with congressional candidates, senatorial candidates, all pointing to the great things that Democrats have delivered for people from a childcare tax credit, that a child tax credit that’s lowering child poverty, to childcare resources, adult care resources, universal pre-K, building roads and bridges, connecting more folks to the internet, things that are dramatically impacting people’s lives that they can easily understand. And if they don’t get that done, that plays right into the cynicism that Mitch McConnell and the republicans love to stoke, these guys talk a good game, but they don’t really do anything for you.

Julian Castro  16:27

You know, when it comes down to it, whether it’s immigration, or its voting, right, whatever it is, they’re all taught, they’re trying to fool you, they’re trying to pull one on you. They’ve played that card with the Hispanic community with the Latino community on immigration for a while now. And they’re gonna play it over and over on other issues with other communities, too, if we let them. So it’s that important that Manchin and Sinema come on board, and Joe Biden is in the best position to pressure them to do that. I mean, he still has a pretty good approval rating, you know, as far as things go, he knows the senate better than anybody else and served there, you know, 36-37 years, he sold himself as a presidential candidate on the idea of being able to bring Republicans and Democrats together. You know, at this point, we’re just asking, like, okay, let’s get the Democrats together and pass this thing.

Sawyer Hackett

Right. And you know, obviously, you ran against him in 2020. And, you know, famously he said that Republicans would have an epiphany, after the 2020 election, that we could deliver Republican support for some of these things. Of course, you know, he has negotiated and delivered an infrastructure deal that has bipartisan support. But of course, it’s always been tied together with the extremely popular Build Back Better agenda. And I think one of the most frustrating aspects of this is that, you know, this legislation is extremely popular both among Democrats, Republicans, Independents, this is not a progressive issue that Sinema and Manchin are holding back on, you know, the prescription drug bill, for example, that that component, which would allow, you know, Medicare to negotiate drug prices directly, it would cut drug prices by 75%, it would bring $800 billion in revenue to actually help pay for the agenda. And it’s supported by 88% of the American people. That is the policy that she’s holding up, a policy that is probably one of the highest polling policy issues that we’ve ever had. And she’s the one holding it up.

Sawyer Hackett  18:33

Of course, she’s also the top recipient of farmer money, or one of the top recipients of farmer money in the Senate. So it doesn’t really make any sense. It flies in the face of logic; it flies in the face of policy and politics. But it doesn’t seem like the administration has done enough to bring these, bring these two people into the White House, and actually put some pressure on them, force them to, you know, join the rest of the caucus and get these things done. Otherwise, we may be, you know, we may be headed for a midterm cycle where we lose both the House and Senate, we lose our investigation into the January 6 Commission, we lose. You know, all this energy that we built after winning these states, Georgia and Arizona and elsewhere. And you know, Joe Biden himself may be hurt in 2024. If he decides to run again for reelection. I mean, this hurts our coalition broadly for years to come if he can’t deliver these to Democrats, not Republicans, Democrats.

Julian Castro

Yeah, look, again, this is not to let republicans off the hook. They have become such a terrible party. They’ve become the cult of Donald Trump, not even a party that stands for any principles values, even really policy positions except corporate giveaways doing everything they can to benefit the wealthiest the most powerful corporations in the country. So it’s, but we you know, we know that that’s their game. We know that’s what they’re going to do. And that’s why it’s so much more important than if you call yourself a Democrat that you value certain things, most especially investing in people, right? Whether it’s there, you know, its children through universal pre-K, or the child tax credit, or funds for childcare, you invest in the middle class, not just the wealthy. And, you know, I give Joe Biden all the credit for that Build Back Better plan, it is a fantastic plan. It’s a transformative plan, and we can get it done. And now though, it needs to get done, it needs to get done.

Sawyer Hackett  20:36

And you mentioned Republicans, I mean, you don’t even see a full scale, like effort to push back on the agenda. I mean, you don’t see this sort of like, you don’t see ads on TV about the Build Back Better. About the reconciliation bill, you don’t see ads about..

Julian Castro 

Name calling right of socialism. And all you’ve seen, of course, you hear that in their ecosystem.

Sawyer Hackett 

And people are tired of hearing that they don’t they tune that out now.

Julian Castro 

Yeah, they write that off. Most people write that off. Sure. Right. I mean, because they know, even in places like West Virginia, that it is popular.

Sawyer Hackett

So they’re not even getting the pushback from the right. You know, the Manchin’s and Sinema’s of the world aren’t getting the put traditional pushback that you would get from the right for supporting, you know, Democratic policies like these, and yet they’re still holding a line, they’re still holding out on the filibuster. Again, you know, the filibuster is another issue that is supported broadly by the American people. And they’re holding out on it, and it would deliver so much help to their two states specifically. It just doesn’t make any sense. I mean, I guess, you know, with Manchin, you can almost see the logic behind it, that he feels the need to moderate himself. He may be the only Democratic in West Virginia, I’m not really sure. But you can’t say the same thing about Kyrsten Sinema. We won that state in 2020. It is you know, headed to be reliably democratic in the future. And she was elected on a progressive agenda that she has since turned her back on.

Julian Castro  22:01

Yeah, it is baffling. And, you know, I was glad to see Bernie Sanders, letter op ed column, whatever you want to call it to folks in West Virginia, about the importance of passing the Build Back Better plan, of course, Joe Manchin had quite a strong reaction to that, right. But hey, look, I mean, you’re in the marketplace of ideas. These ideas are very popular, of investing in our children of investing in the middle class of ensuring that wealthy corporations and wealthy individuals pay their fair share, that’s popular.

Sawyer Hackett 

I saw on Twitter that you’ve said the two states that you have not visited yet are Hawaii and West Virginia and I saw some people saying well, hey, you know, if you need a reason to go to West Virginia, this might be it, you might need to go visit Joe Manchin on his houseboat.

Julian Castro 

I yeah, I said that because I visited Montana, which was the 48th state I visited. And I only need to do more like you said, Hawaii and West Virginia. Of course, I never thought I’d go to West Virginia to actually politic, you know, had more people say go to Harpers Ferry, go to a few other places that are nice. It’s a beautiful state. And Hawaii, of course, is a beautiful state. But you know, I mean, Manchin needs a pressure campaign.

Sawyer Hackett 

Right. Well, I think it’s happening. I mean, I think advocates and his constituents and Sinema’s constituents are doing their part. I mean, they’re showing up to where, wherever they can find those to putting pressure on them, penning op-eds and writing their editors. But I do think it’s time for a full-scale effort from democratic leadership, both in the White House and Congress to get these two on board.

Julian Castro

Yeah, I have a feeling that’s what we’re gonna see in the coming days and weeks. Well, I’m excited today because we have a fantastic interview coming up for you with one of the best immigration reporters out there. Hamed Aleaziz of BuzzFeed news.

Julian Castro  24:19

Welcome back to OUR AMERICA. You know, when I was in college, I thought that I was gonna go into journalism. I guess I grew up, you know, in that post Watergate era, where journalism was about investigating the wrongdoings in our society and writing those wrongs or at least helping to. And you know, obviously, I didn’t go into journalism, but I still maintain a really healthy respect for folks who practice it, especially these days, because the journalism business has gotten harder and harder. But I also have taken note of a few journalists over the years, who seem to do their job very, very well. And I’m excited to have on our next guest, because when it comes to the topic of immigration, I can’t think of anybody who over the last several years and y’all know how hot a topic immigration has been in the press, I can’t think of anybody who has consistently broken more stories, especially when it comes to issues related to ICE and the Department of Homeland Security in general. What’s happening at our border, and some extremely excited to have on today, Hamed Aleaziz, who’s a BuzzFeed news immigration reporter. He’s based in the Bay Area. Hamed, welcome to OUR AMERICA.

Hamed Aleaziz 

Thank you so much for having me. And for the kind words.

Julian Castro

Yeah, like, I’m gonna get to the serious questions in a second. But let me ask you, you know, it’s almost like you’re a DHS employee or something. How in the world? Do you have so many sources in that department that have given you such great stories over these last few years? Because it seems like every couple of weeks, when I’m reading an immigration story, you know, I read the headline as wow, that’s quite a story. And then I read, you know, the byline who wrote it, and it’s you. So, you know, how are you getting so many great sources in that department?

Hamed Aleaziz  26:16

Yeah, I mean, I think it’s a matter of persistence. You know, I’m really persistent in trying to talk to as many people as possible, I’m okay with being told no, in certain situations. And I think it’s through the work, you show it through your work, show that you’re, you know, dedicated to getting the reporting right, and to telling a full story. And I think over a certain amount of time, you start to develop trust with a whole host of folks. And I think to a certain extent, there’s luck to, you know, just being in the right place, at the right time. And you know, making your own luck too.

Julian Castro 

Yeah, well, whatever it is that you’re doing, keep doing it, because it’s working. Like so, I mean, there’s probably not been a beat that has been more active than the immigration beat, especially since Trump became president made that one of his signature issues, maybe his signature issue, changed a lot of policy, implemented new policies. And I wanted to just start off by talking about title 42. We talked a little bit about title 42. On the podcast, title 42 is basically a provision in the law that allows the CDC essentially to invoke under the rubric of public health, for public health reasons, the ability to essentially close off our border to people who wants to seek asylum in our country. And this was implemented back in March of 2020. By the Trump administration. It was reported at the time to be the brainchild of Stephen Miller. You know, everybody knows Stephen Miller and his history on immigration is very right-wing views. It was pushed back on resisted by the CDC, originally, many folks expected the Biden administration when Joe Biden got into office to lift Title 42. And to allow people who wanted to seek asylum to at least make their asylum claim. But here we are coming toward the end of 2021. And with a few exceptions, that’s not the case, Title 42 is still in place. A lot of public health experts say that it’s actually not necessary. The Biden administration has said that it is necessary because we’re going through this pandemic, still. Can you talk a little bit about the impact of the policy, the impact of title 42? And then what’s been its effect on our border and our asylum system?

Hamed Aleaziz  28:52

Yeah, I mean, the effect on the asylum system is that there’s ultimately no access to asylum protections. I mean, this is, you know, you saw during the Trump administration, all these different ways that Stephen Miller and their administration were trying to block asylum at the border. You know, if you came through certain countries and you didn’t apply for asylum, then you wouldn’t be allowed to enter the country and seek protection in the US. These measures often were blocked in federal court. But what we saw with Title 42, was a way to ultimately stop most, you know, most asylum seekers at the border. And, you know, no better example of that, then, with the situation with the Haitians in Texas last month, you know, you’ve seen 7000 people be expelled, and it’s, you know, one of these situations that we didn’t we never actually saw during the Trump administration. And we’re seeing it now. And, like you said, the Biden ministration, as, you know, embrace this measure.

Sawyer Hackett 

So, you know, the administration has largely defended the policy title To on the basis of public health, they continually point to the CDC as recommending the policy. But you know, there hasn’t really been any sort of public health experts out there, you know, from the podium defending it. They claim that this is not an immigration policy. It’s a public health order. But it’s probably been the most successful, you know, Stephen Miller policy ever implemented, effectively shutting down our borders and our asylum system for nearly two years. There’s been some debates about their use of this policy defender say, you know, we’re still in a pandemic. It’s needed to control, you know, the public health crisis that we’re going through, but others see it as sort of a convenience that the administration is using to turn away asylum seekers and sort of dispense with negative stories that t, you know, right wing press may hammer them over the head with. Do you see their use of Title 42 as purely political? Is it about public health? Or is it more about managing potential surges at the border, and not dealing with the right-wing criticism that they might get from it?

Hamed Aleaziz 

I mean, I think that’s such a key question. I mean, if you ask people within an administration, certain people, they will say that this is a public health issue, you know, they don’t want people crowding in Border Patrol facilities. You know, if we see a lot of people we don’t want, you know, our Customs and Border Protection officers, Border Patrol agents to get COVID, we know that there’s already been agents and officers who have died from COVID. This is something that a lot of people are sensitive to. But there are others who do think and this is a political issue, that we’re coming up on the midterms. And, you know, you don’t want to have order numbers be higher than, you know, that fox news and other outlets and, you know, right wing politicians can take advantage of so that’s certainly a hot topic in the administration, for sure.

Julian Castro

Yeah. And, as you know, many immigration activists have grown increasingly frustrated with the Biden administration, because title 42 is still largely in place, and also because the Biden ministration, after court orders moving forward with re implementing the migrant protection protocols or remain in Mexico policy. And it was reported a few days ago, it’s at the end of last week that a group of immigration activists walked out of their virtual meeting with the Biden ministration in protest, because the administration is trying to move forward with reinstituting MPP. What do you make of that, of this back and forth, and this growing hostility among immigration activists that you must certainly talk to as your sources and the Biden administration.

Hamed Aleaziz  32:44

Yeah, I mean, I think we saw for the first few months, there was, you know, less pressure from advocates and activists trying to give the administration sometime after so many changes took place during the Trump administration. But as we’ve seen, Title 42, continue for, you know, months on end with no, like end on end in sight. And now the return of remain in Mexico, the temperature has really increased, and advocates don’t want to be you know, they don’t want to be a part of whatever system that’s being implemented by the administration. I mean, they’re saying they want to do it in a more humane way, a different way. And that’s something that, you know, advocates just won’t stand for.

Julian Castro 

And, you know, Sawyer mentioned the political element to this as well. You remember that in the first couple of years of the Obama administration, there was also a growing frustration with the administration over immigration, because President Obama had said that we’ll get immigration reform done in the first year. And then it didn’t get done. That resulted in immigration activists interrupting public rallies that the President was at, you know, basically shouting down the president at those rallies. And then right before the election of 2012, DACA happens. And so I wonder sometimes whether this is not, at least on the political end part of a playbook, which is to sort of appease the right, the right wing as much as you can for as long as you can, knowing that that pressure is growing on the left, as it did in that, oh, 910 11 timeframe, and then release, you know, hit that pressure valve release before the election, whether that’s for the midterms, or that’s for the 2024 election. Yeah, I mean, could that be what’s going on here?

Hamed Aleaziz  34:42

I mean, it certainly could be I mean, I think already we see the difference in policy at the border and interior of the US. I mean, you see what’s going on at the border, like we said title 42. They’ve brought back expedited removal for families. Which is Just another way to quickly deport people at the border. So very restrictive policy approach at the border. At the same time, in the interior of the US, you’re seeing rainy rules for ICE restricting how they are able to arrest immigrants not able to arrest certain groups of immigrants, like folks who don’t have criminal records, stopping mass worksite raids, there are a lot of progressive policies in the interior in  the US, but there’s just you know, pretty much status quo at the border.

Julian Castro 

One that that, you know, I know Sawyer’s going to jumped in. But that is a great point, which is a lot of the work that DHS is doing on the interior policies don’t get nearly as much attention as the policies that relate to people at the border. On the interior side, there’s actually been some good progress as far as you know, what activists want?

Hamed Aleaziz 

Yeah, totally. I mean, these are changes to ICE are, you know, really, really massive changes, I mean, arrest numbers have gone down, the types of people who got arrested, have changed the tone of how ice, you know, interact with the community, the agency is has really been altered. And just a matter of a few months now, we’ll have to see, as we move forward, what happens but, you know, you look at something like that. That’s just an example right there

Sawyer Hackett  36:20

So you’re obviously extremely well sourced in immigration circles, at the DHS, you know, Border Patrol inside the administration in the White House. There’s been some reporting that inside the administration, among immigration staff and experts that there’s a little bit of disillusionment that they’re that that folks don’t really see an endgame in their agenda that they don’t really see a through line in what they’re trying to achieve. That they run from these fights these immigration fights, whether it be on refugees or asylum, and they let republicans sort of control the narrative around the issue. But it seems clear from the outside, at least from my perspective, that that they don’t like this issue, they don’t want to talk about this issue. They see it as a political loser is not something that’s going to help them politically. What do you make of that argument? I guess, inside the White House, and what do you think the mood is among immigration staff, at agencies and throughout the administration? And you know, as they’re seeing these crises, play out, whether it be, you know, Haitians or the refugee system?

Hamed Aleaziz 

Sure. I mean, I think the key question is, and I tried to write about this a few weeks ago, is, you know, what is President Biden’s stance on immigration, and we rarely hear him talk about this issue. And when he has, you know, taken questions I, you know, for example, you know, a few months ago, they asked him about, you know, Mexico not taking back family, certain families at the border, who the US wanted to import in higher numbers, and he said that Mexico should take back all the families. That’s something we would expect, you know, for President Trump to say, right? So, again, I mean, it’s an issue that I think that idea of where he stands, and not having a sense of it carries out throughout the administration. So there’s these battles between people who are more progressive, and others who are, you know, perhaps less so. And, you know, you don’t have that through line like we had in the Trump administration of we’re going to restrict immigration every single point. There’s less consistency with this illustration for sure.

Sawyer Hackett  38:29

Yeah, I mean, that my question is, like, you know, obviously, Secretary Mayorkas came in having to manage an agency that that’s gone through a lot of problems. I think, you know, I wanted to sort of just direct a question to you about political journalism, when it comes to immigration, especially immigration enforcement. You know, how do you how do you see the role of journalists changing in terms of how they interact with immigration enforcement officials? I know, there’s been some back and forth on stories about whether these officials can even be trusted in the information that they’re sharing, whether they’re manufacturing crises. You know, there was some stories about Border Patrol, potentially creating images with the Haitians beneath that bridge. You know, how do you see the role of immigration reporting, changing post in the post Trump era? Now that you cover these things, both from a law enforcement side, but also from a political side?

Hamed Aleaziz 

Sure. I mean, I think certainly it’s different, right? I mean, during the Trump administration, it was more combative. We’d write something and then, you know, somebody, a DHS spokesperson would be calling me fake news on Twitter, for example. This was happening constantly. There’s less of that, obviously. But I think my role, our role as reporters, ultimately is to hold government accountable to be, you know, oversight as to what’s happening on the ground. And I don’t think that changes between ministration So, for me, that’s always been my goal was regardless of whatever agency it is to try to really figure out what the truth is, you know, on the ground and within the agency beyond the press releases that they send us.

Julian Castro  40:08

You know, and talking about holding government accountable. Just a few days ago, we mark 20 years, since President Bush called for the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. I mean, it’s hard to remember for a lot of folks now, but our federal government was not organized the way that it is today into a Department of Homeland Security. And it happened, of course, in the aftermath of 9/11. Since that time, the department has grown a lot. It has taken on various functions, been the subject of a lot of controversy of slogans like abolish ICE attempts to both add resources and some calling for it being stripped of resources. I remember a letter that 19 Homeland Security investigation employee sent a couple years back basically for calling for the department itself to be broken up because they said that they couldn’t do their job the way that they should be able to and the department wasn’t functioning well. So you’ve had so much controversy and sharp points of view on which direction the department should go in? Whether parts of it like ice should be abolished or not. 20 years in, what do you make of this department of homeland security? And what do you think about its future?

Hamed Aleaziz 

Yeah, I mean, I think we’ve seen the last half decade or so and even before that, the agency has been swallowed by, you know, the border and immigration issues. And I think ultimately, you know, they need to make a decision as to how they want to focus their resources, especially with, you know, issues, you know, within the US around extremism. You know, as we saw January 6, those types of issues, where the focus goes, where the resources goes, because ultimately, you know, as secretary Mayorkas, you know, we’ve seen him on TV, and, you know, in the media, mostly talking about immigration, and that was the way it was during the Trump administration. So, you know, will DHS ever get to a point where they have, you know, multiple things that they are actually focusing their resources on? You know, it’s unclear, I think we are as a public so focused on immigration, so focused on the border, that it’s hard for me to see DHS ever moving past that, unless there’s some massive change.

Julian Castro  42:37

When you’ve covered this beat this immigration beat for a few years now. I mean, is there anything that you’ve come across, that really sticks with you somebody’s story, their journey, or struggle or something that really shocked you, that changed the way that you do your work?

Hamed Aleaziz 

You know, I you know, the thing I like about this job is that it’s different every day, every week, and you have ability to, you know, tackle all kinds of stories that get into the, the jargon in the government and in policies. But, you know, ultimately, the things that often stick with me are people’s stories. And when I was at the San Francisco Chronicle, in 2017, I wrote about a woman who was a nurse in Oakland, who was being deported by the Trump administration, she had no criminal background, she was revered in the community. She had multiple children were under 18. And I wrote a story about her, you know, about what was coming for her. And I saw the reaction that community, from politicians from advocates were coming out for her, to support her and her experiencing that whole moment, actually getting to see in real time, what it’s like to be separated from your family, as everybody’s watching. You know, it’s hard not to, you know, feel those emotions in that moment to see somebody struggling, so mightily and ultimately she was deported. And she was, you know, she got deported Mexico, and I got to follow her there to Mexico, and to see what it was like to, for her to try to raise her kids from Mexico, her kids remain an Oakland, from Mexico, and how challenging that was, you know, after our reporting, you know, a year later, she was able to return to the US, she got an attorney and she’s back in the Bay Area. So I often think about her, you know, you know, we talked about policies, but ultimately, these policies have real effect on people like her.

Julian Castro  44:46

I’m glad to hear that. Her story has had a happy ending, and for everybody that’s still waiting for that kind of ending to their story. You know, thank you for pursuing your work and this immigration bead with diligence and with integrity and heart as well. Thanks for joining us.

Hamed Aleaziz 

Thank you.

Julian Castro 

Welcome back to OUR AMERICA. Last week we asked you to share your stories with us, because we like to end our show with some good news, upbeat news. And we got a voicemail from Becca, here it is.


Hi, this is Becca, I’m 29. And I’m calling in from Norwalk, Connecticut, which I want to acknowledge is the ancestral lands of the […] tribe. You asked what’s exciting in my life lately. I was driving past City Hall yesterday and saw a big sign recruiting for workers. And I worked poll for the first time in 2020, and I’m so excited to work them again this year in 2021. I think it’s important that a lot of people know that in many towns, you can get paid to be a poll worker, I’m going to make $230. So you know, that’s not a bad day, in addition to getting that warm feeling inside, from helping my neighbors and fellow voters to exercise their fundamental rights. So that’s all I got for you. Thanks.

Julian Castro  46:30

Wow, Becca, I love that, she’s my favorite person of the week. She is so right about poll workers, you know, as much importance as we’ve placed on making sure that voters get out there and vote, it’s just as important to make sure that we actually have the poll workers out there to support folks who want to go vote. Because if you don’t have then you see those huge long lines that you have, you know, in different places in the country, oftentimes in Black and Brown communities and poor communities. You need machines, and you need the poll workers to actually work those polls. And so you know, thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Becca.

Sawyer Hackett 

Yeah, thanks, Becca for leaving us a voicemail. As a Virginia voter I look forward to casting my ballot here in Virginia in the next couple of weeks. And you know, I always appreciate having a good conversation with coworkers. Each time I get to vote because I know you know; they’re doing a public service for us and they make sure that folks can cast their ballots smoothly. Make sure that folks and get through those lines and answer any questions that people have about voting. So if you do live in Virginia, you know, early voting is underway now, it ends at the end of the month in October, so make sure to get out. Get out the vote and vote before November 2, on Tuesday.

Julian Castro 

Leave us your own voicemail about the stories you care about most right now. At 833-453-6662. That’s 833-453-6662 You can also visit, Sawyer’s the executive director of that, and you can hear our show, and a lot more on Lemonada Premium on Apple podcasts. Subscribe today. See you next week.

Sawyer Hackett 

Thank you.


OUR AMERICA is a Lemonada Media Original. Our Producer is Xorje Olivares, with executive producers Jessica Cordova Kramer, Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Julian Castro. Mix and scoring by Veronica Rodriguez. Music is by Xander Singh. Please help others find the show by rating and reviewing wherever you listen and follow us across all social platforms at @JulianCastro, at @Sawyer Hackett and at @LemonadaMedia. If you want more OUR AMERICA, subscribe to Lemonada Premium, only on Apple podcasts.

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