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Deputy WH Press Secretary Discusses President Trump's Stance On DACA

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We heard reference to President Trump's Twitter account a couple of times there. His tweets about the caravan of Central Americans came yesterday morning. In one of them, he wrote in all caps, no more DACA deal - in another quote, "these big flows of people are all trying to take advantage of DACA. They want in on the act." DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It's an Obama-era policy that shields from deportation undocumented people who came to the U.S. as children who are now in the country illegally. And these tweets came after the president had been saying for months that he wanted to strike a deal with Congress to give DACA recipients citizenship.

Hogan Gidley is deputy White House press secretary. Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

HOGAN GIDLEY: Thank you so much for having me on. I appreciate the time.

CORNISH: Now, none of the people in the so-called caravan approaching the U.S.-Mexico border qualify for the DACA program. It requires those eligible to have lived in the U.S. since 2007. So why connect these two issues?

GIDLEY: Well, to pretend as though one doesn't act as a serious draw to the other is just disingenuous. People who - smugglers who help people come from Mexico into this country don't go into Mexico and say, hey, guys, watch out the DACA deal doesn't really cover you. They say come on over. They're not deporting people. Don't worry about it. There are loopholes in the law. You can exist in the United States. We can get you there, and you'll be a citizen sooner rather than later. That's what they do to make money - the smugglers. That's how they get people into our country. But to pretend as though the two don't work in tandem is just disingenuous.

CORNISH: What prompted this round of tweeting on Easter Sunday? Was this a planned policy rollout or reaction to, reportedly, a segment on Fox Sunday morning?

GIDLEY: I'm not sure. I haven't spoken with him directly about the impetus for the tweet directly. But I can tell you what, quite frankly, is the impetus for his position on this. And that is that people have been pouring into this country now for decades. Our immigration system has been broken basically since Ronald Reagan.

CORNISH: But this president has also talked about immigration - illegal immigration going down, right? Those are one of his tweets that he really boasted about in the last 12 months.

GIDLEY: Well, yeah, but you've got to separate the two. When you're talking about unaccompanied - excuse me - children, rather, UACs, there's been a 1,700 percent increase. When you're talking about people who come over and claim things like credible fear, for example, for asylum - things like that - there are loopholes out there where people have exploited those loopholes. MS-13 gang members do the same thing to come into this country through Central America where they are captured. And then, within two days, they have to be released into the country without any warning, without telling local law enforcement. They just get let go.

Those are the types of things that the president's been trying to crack down on. And quite frankly, I think we wouldn't be in this situation we're in now where we have hundreds of thousands, if not a little more than a million, DACA - people eligible for DACA had the system not been broken in the first place. And that was one of the reasons the president came out early on and tried to broker a deal with Democrats. And you'll remember Republicans were furious that the president offered three times the potential pathways to citizenship under DACA than did Barack Obama. Democrats are angry that we wanted to end chain migration, the visa lottery and build a wall.

CORNISH: Right. I want to ask you about that because you brought up...

GIDLEY: It was a completely bipartisan, right-down-the-middle plan, and it was exposed because so many people on the extreme of either side didn't like the president's plan.

CORNISH: At the same time, the president's plan that he put out that he supported only got 39 votes in the Senate, right? I mean, there wasn't support for what he was putting forward either. And I want to know if the president says, quote, "DACA is dead," does that mean he's completely done doing any kind of negotiation at this point? Like, what's the last best offer from this administration?

GIDLEY: Well, what it means is Democrats refused to come to the table. So even after the Schumer shutdown - and we were able to steer our way out of that - the president began to work with members of Congress on various other iterations of the deal. And Democrats didn't want it. They've been playing politics with people's lives now for quite some time, and that was evident when they went to the mat and defended hundreds of thousands of people who are here illegally and unlawfully as opposed to hundreds of millions of American citizens.

And no more is that exposed than in the omnibus package. There's not one thing in the omnibus about DACA - not one - because the Democrats don't want to address it. They were fine with letting that go through. And you're starting to see some DACA recipients - some people who are eligible for that to turn on Democrats and - because this president has exposed them.

CORNISH: And we have a short time left, so I want to ask one last question because the president used executive action to end the DACA program last September. Won't he bear some responsibility if and when young people in the program are deported?

GIDLEY: Well, look. Let's play this out. If Barack Obama has the power by the executive branch to create something out of whole cloth that quite frankly most scholars say is unconstitutional in the legal realm, then wouldn't the next president also, by definition of executive powers, have the ability to end it? The fact is most people say this is unconstitutional. It's crushing the American worker. This system of immigration has been broken, as I said, for the better part of 40 years. The DACA piece is something that quite frankly was unconstitutional and is hurtful to the American citizen.

CORNISH: White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley, thank you for speaking with us.

GIDLEY: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.