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Trump's Been Tweeting About DACA. What's That Mean For People In Limbo?

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President Trump is continuing to tweet about immigration this morning. It started yesterday when he sent a series of tweets railing against America's own immigration laws and lambasting Mexico for not doing enough on illegal immigration. The president also wrote yesterday in all caps (reading) NO MORE DACA DEAL.

This morning, he is again attacking Mexico, saying the country must stop a large group of people who are traveling in a so-called caravan coming into the U.S - many of them anyway. DACA, we should remind you, is the Obama administration program that allows certain immigrants who are brought here illegally as children to stay and work in this country.

The fate of that current program has largely been in the hands of the courts, but lawmakers could also come up with a fix of their own. So what does the president's latest missive on DACA mean for the people waiting in limbo? We're joined now by Representative Joaquin Castro, Democrat from the state of Texas. Congressman, thanks for being back on the show.

JOAQUIN CASTRO: Yeah, thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So how seriously are you taking the president's threat that there just will not be a DACA deal?

CASTRO: Well, the first thing is, yesterday was really strange for him to be arguing about this and attacking the DREAMers on Easter Sunday. But the president has continuously flip-flopped. Remember, recently he said that he might be against the omnibus because it didn't protect DREAMers. Now, again, he's saying there's not going to be a DACA deal. In fact, at every opportunity when there's been any bill that's had any kind of momentum in a bipartisan way with Republicans Democrats, the president has squelched the momentum. So I believe that this is pretty much his position. Remember, he's the one that killed DACA, so I don't think he wants to do much about it.

MARTIN: So does that mean that it's over? I mean, if it doesn't matter whether or not there's bipartisan support for a DACA fix, as there has been for many, many months, if the president doesn't want it to happen, do you still think it can?

CASTRO: I think if Congress can come to a bipartisan agreement, then there will be enough pressure on the president to sign something. And again, he flip-flops on his positions, so I still think it's possible, but obviously, it's been a very difficult thing coming.

MARTIN: At one point, some Republicans said that they would back protections for DACA recipients if Democrats would include money for more broader security in that spending bill. You said you would not support that. Why not?

CASTRO: Well, I've said that I won't - I don't want to support a wall across America. So spending $25 billion on a thing that most Americans and definitely most Texans don't want isn't something that I'm anxious to support. At the same time, the president seemed to indicate that he was willing to basically trade protecting the DREAMers for some kind of wall. Well, we saw in this last omnibus that there was about $1.6 billion for fencing or what he would consider a wall, and yet there was absolutely no protection for DREAMers at all.

MARTIN: For the months, though, that Congress spent hammering out that spending plan, I mean, DACA has been used as this political football. Some Democrats demanded that a DACA fix should be part of any bill, and they were willing to shut down the government to get a DACA plan. You were one of those who were going to hold that line, but many of your colleagues, including some in leadership, were not - they were not as committed. I mean, how committed do you believe your party is overall to getting this done?

CASTRO: Well, I think that Democrats and some Republicans absolutely want to see protections for DREAMers and want to see that we have a DACA relief bill come to the Congress. At the same time, when you see a piece of legislation that is bad for not just the reason of not protecting DREAMers but for other reasons, it becomes tough to support it. And so you vote no. Otherwise, you've got to be able to stand up and put your name to it. And on some of these bills, that's something that I just haven't been able to do.

MARTIN: Are you disappointed, though, in your colleagues who have not taken the same position?

CASTRO: Well, look, sure. I mean, I'd love for us to be able to stand together and make sure that we find a solution for DACA, that we're able to protect the DREAMers, but people have different approaches, and I respect that.

MARTIN: The president's tweet seems to be in response to reports that were first featured in BuzzFeed, that this caravan, this really big group of hundreds of Central American migrants, is traveling through Mexico. Many of these people are reportedly hoping to enter the U.S. And this is spurring the president's comments about he believes that they are here to benefit from DACA. And DACA doesn't actually work that way, but that's what's provoking his tweet about no DACA deal. But he is also attacking Mexico, saying that Mexico isn't doing enough to curb illegal immigration. Do you think that there is some truth in that?

CASTRO: Well, a few years ago, when the Central American migration crisis really started and you saw hundreds of thousands of women and children coming to the United States, fleeing violent drug gangs, there was an effort by Mexico. They really stepped up their effort to curb that migration. But we should bear in mind that you can get rid of a problem without solving it. So if that's the president's intention, it's certainly possible to accomplish.

MARTIN: What do you think should happen to these people if they come to the U.S. border?

CASTRO: Well, if they're - they're coming, I believe, because they're seeking asylum or refuge, so they should be allowed to apply for refugee status. And if they qualify, they should get it and if not, they shouldn't.

MARTIN: Joaquin Castro represents the 20th District of Texas. He's a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Thank you so much, Congressman.

CASTRO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.