Early yesterday afternoon in Kansas City Representative Emanuel Cleaver (D) held an immigration town hall at the Manual Career and Technical Center.
Representative Cleaver met with the media before the start of the town hall. After his opening remarks he took questions.
Representative Emanuel Cleaver (D): Any questions?
Question: President Trump calls this extreme vetting, he’s trying to protect the country. I, I imagine a lot of Americans feel at least they want to keep America safe. But what’s the better alternative here, rather than banning everyone from these countries?
Representative Cleaver: This is, let me try to use a very proper term, ignorant. The, the seven countries, uh, that have been targeted, uh, in northern Africa, uh, and in the middle east, uh, to this date have never sent a citizen over here or a citizen has never been immigrated over here who’s committed a terrorist attack. None of those nations were, uh, involved, uh, in nine-eleven. In fact, uh, most of the, the terrorists who are responsible for over three thousand deaths in New York on nine-eleven came from Saudi Arabia. So, uh, these nations were, for some weird reason, just randomly selected. They all happen to be majority Muslim, uh, nations but there’s, there’s no logic in this. These are not the nations that sent people over here to commit a single act of terror in the United Sates.
Question: We’ve heard that for the last two to three weeks. But, nothing’s changed. It seems, it seems like you turn on the tube and things get worse instead of better. We don’t see the Democrats actually making, making, suggesting maybe we get together with Trump or that, that the leaders of the GOP. But they’re hearing the same thing week after week after week. And again, like I said earlier, it gets worse.
Representative Cleaver: Yes. Well, um, we have a, a malfunctioning government. We have, we’ve had it for some time now. Uh, what the people in this country I think are going to eventually realize is that power is a, is a, is a significant aphrodisiac. And, uh, everything that’s going on in Washington is based on power. Uh, there are members of Congress who I thought would, would never stand still to watch something like this happen. But, just think about this, if you’re in the majority in the House and the Senate and you have the White House you can do absolutely any and everything you want. Uh, you know, Democrats can stand up in line, say we’re gonna stop, uh, this or we can stop that. The truth of the matter is they have the votes. The most powerful person in Washington has never been the president, at least in modern times. It’s the Speaker of the House. The president doesn’t have a vote, he can’t introduce legislation. Uh, it’s the Speaker of the House. And, uh, Speaker of the House has not chosen at this time, uh, to address this issue, uh, in favor of, of bringing some calm to the nation.
Question: A lot of folks are coming here today, they’re looking for answers. And you don’t have a lot of answers for them.
Representative Cleaver: Oh, we have a lot of answers for them. We’re going to give them legal answers about what they can do if they’re stopped. Uh, we, we have answers, uh, to questions about how far people can go, uh, in terms of intimidating them, what is legal and what is not legal. We’re going to arm them with the law so that, uh, when and if things happen, uh, they will be able to respond.
Look, during the campaign, um, President Trump said over and over and over again that he was going to repeal the executive order, uh, on DACA. I believe it. He’s done everything he’s said he’s gonna do. So that’s going to come. So these students, these young people need to know what the law is. Thy need to know what, uh, people can do. That’s, that’s what our office is being bombarded with – questions from people saying what, what can I do.
We have the Mexican Counsel here, we have ACLU here, uh, we have, uh, constitutional lawyers here, we have people who can answer those questions. And so, they will be, uh, armed, uh, with, with how to respond. Now, in terms of us lying to them, saying we can stop it, I, I’m not going to, to do that cause I, that, that’s the part that I think has caused people to hate Washington is when, uh, people stand up and say they can do something that they know they can’t do. And we know that we can’t do this. Uh, but, but we want people to know, for example, the, the government has issued a, uh, a freeze on, uh, federal employees. On the surface that doesn’t seem like a big deal. It does. We, we’re one of the largest, uh, federal centers in the world. Uh, we have almost twelve thousand federal workers right here in Kansas City. So how does this fit with this whole immigration issue? Little known and never reported, I’ve never seen a single line reported anywhere. The, the president in his executive order has, uh, commissioned Homeland Security to hire ten thousand, ten thousand new agents to deal with, uh, investigations and referrals for deportation. Ten thousand people will be hired. Now, people need to know that who are out cheering this, this whole thing that, that, uh, this is good for the country, as I heard a man say on TV this morning. Uh, but, when, when people get all the information and, and it’s difficult to get it out because of the, uh, we don’t have the, any centrality any more in terms of news. But, we gotta get information out so people understand. People are cheering, I’m glad they’re gonna stop those bureaucrats, uh, from getting hired. Ten thousand people hired to deal with this issue. Ten thousand.
Question: …answered the first part of this question, but, what are some alternatives that you’re talking about here that will also make people feel safe? What are the other options?
Representative Cleaver: Knowing the law. Knowing the law. Is what makes people, will make people feel safe. Uh, because we’re not gonna give them, uh, any, uh, erroneous information. Uh, we have people here, coming here today who care. Uh, [Representative] Luis Gutiérrez from Chicago who’s been the preeminent leader in this issue is going to be the first, uh, person coming on, uh, to talk with, with, well, I’ve had him here before. uh, good friend of mine. I, I’m not sure that there’s anything, uh, more, more, uh, important than, uh, accurate information about what, uh, can happen to a person. And if something happens, what they will need to do.
Question: But Trump doesn’t seem to know the law.
Representative Cleaver: Well Trump doesn’t, um, um, I, I try to be real respectful of the Office of the Presidency. Um, um, I’m not sure, that based on everything we know, that Mr. Trump even was, uh, involved in the writing of the executive order. Um, what we, what we’ve been, what we found out is that the staff, uh, of the Judiciary Committee was summoned to the White House to, to, uh, help draft this. And they did so without informing Congressman Goodlatte who is the chair of the, the, uh, Judiciary Committee.
So, um, I, I, I’m the kind of person, I’m not, I don’t want people to come up here and say, no, we’re gonna be on today with information that will prevent anything bad from happening to us. Uh, but what we will be able to do is give people, uh, valuable information to prevent some things from happening and, if those things happen, the steps they need to take, uh, for us to get, uh, a, a proper response.
This issue is not going to be settled until it appears before the Supreme Court. Because the president has already instructed, uh, yesterday, the Justice Department, uh, to challenge, uh, the, the court rulings. So, uh, the president wants to continue to move and move and move. He’s not going to back up. Uh, and we, we will be smart, we’re smart if we understand that the president is going to do everything he said he was going to do.
Question: What do you think of the president’s [inaudible] criticism and, and even mocking of the federal judge who is holding up the travel ban?
Representative Cleaver: Well, what I, what I hope Americans understand is he did this all through the campaign. He mocked a judge of, uh, of Mexican descent and, and, and said that the judge couldn’t be fair. Uh, you know, but he won the presidency anyway. So, uh, there are some, some deep seated issues in the, with the American public that, that also must be, uh, eventually addressed. Uh, whatever the president’s doing right now, he did in the, during the campaign. He’s done nothing new. Mocking judges, mocking the disabled, he will continue to do that because there are no negative consequences.
Question: What’s the takeaway [crosstalk] for the people who want to know what they can do that maybe they’re not immigrants or they’re not legal immigrants? This is Jackson County, let’s be honest, we’re kind of preaching to the choir. What do you want all those folks to do or to, you know, what’s their takeaway?
Representative Cleaver: Well, you know, we lost an election, being a Democrat, but, uh, failure, uh, is not just not getting your way. Failure is identifying wrong and doing nothing about it and saying nothing about it. And so one of the things we’ve got to do is to speak out and speak up. Uh, arm the American public with as much in the way of facts as we can, uh, and awareness. And this has to be a teaching moment for the people of the United States.