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Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin Discusses Trump's Decision To Call Off Immigration Raids


Two weeks, that is how long President Trump says he is giving lawmakers to sort out a solution for the southern border. If not, he tweeted, deportations start. Now, this is all in the wake of his threat to launch immigration raids this week across the U.S. - raids the president called off, quote, "at the request of Democrats," end quote. Well, let's bring in a Democrat, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin. He joins me now. Hi there, Senator.

DICK DURBIN: How are you doing?

KELLY: I'm well, thank you. I want to ask, were you among those calling on the president to reverse himself on these raids?

DURBIN: Well, I certainly did. There were many of us who think the idea of mass arrests and mass deportation are going to result in terrible human and family outcomes. Imagine that child coming home from school to find the empty house if the parents have been deported.

KELLY: We at NPR interviewed on Friday the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This is Mark Morgan, the acting ICE director. He told us, look, my agency has no choice but to enforce the law. If you don't like it, lawmakers can change it. But if we don't go out and knock on doors and arrest people who have entered this country illegally, that undercuts the rule of law. How do you answer that, Senator?

DURBIN: I listened to that interview, and I thought to myself, Mr. Morgan, you have a choice here. You have 11 million people who are technically out of legal status in the United States. Well, the highest priority is to take those who may be any danger to us whatsoever - criminal records and the like - and to make sure they are deported.

But if you're going to go out in a broadcast fashion and just take anyone who falls into the net and say, you're gone, you're going to ignore the reality that many people who are here are living in households where there may be one undocumented person and, otherwise, a family of American citizens all following the law, all doing the right thing. The priority should be remove those who are dangerous to America first.

KELLY: Well, let me just see if I can pin you down quickly in terms of where things go next. I said this suspension is temporary. The president says, you guys have got two weeks to figure out a solution on the border. Is it clear to you what would need to get done in the next two weeks to satisfy the president?

DURBIN: I have no idea what will satisfy this president. I've been down this road so many times where he sets goals. We meet them with legislation, and he walks away from them. He's a very difficult man to bargain or deal with when it comes to the issue of immigration. And the reason's obvious.

When he ran for president, he made it clear to America he would be tougher on immigration than any president in recent memory. And he certainly has, from the travel ban all the way to the current times with zero tolerance and families being divided. Yet look at our border now - the worst breakdown we've seen on our southern border in modern memory under this get-tough president. Could it be that is not the approach that will work? I hope we can do it on a bipartisan basis.

KELLY: You and Senator Graham - Republican Senator Lindsey Graham - did meet last week with the president's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner. You all were talking about changes to asylum laws, as I understand it. Did that lend you to any optimistic view in terms of - that there may be a path forward for, A, a plan that could win bipartisan support and B, that could win the support of the White House?

DURBIN: I don't know if we can reach that point. I've had a good working relationship with Senator Graham. We have many, many differences, but when it comes to immigration, we work hard to find common ground. And I'm willing to try again. But we need a spirit of good faith and willingness on both sides, Democrats and Republicans. And for goodness sakes, as we start talking about getting tough with the border, let's not take it out on the kids.

KELLY: And do I hear you correctly? You're saying you do see a path forward in terms of working with Republicans in Congress. It's the White House that is the obstacle from where you sit.

DURBIN: Well, I don't know if they're an obstacle. I will tell you that I sat down with Senator Graham last week. I said, here are five things we're ready to agree on today. Let's do it on a bipartisan basis. If it's not enough, we can return and try again. But let's not waste our time with a political standoff.

KELLY: Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin. Senator, thanks so much for your time.

DURBIN: Good to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.