News Brief: Book Distractions, Salvadoran Protected Status

Jan 8, 2018
Originally published on January 8, 2018 7:39 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Steve, I want to talk to you about Camp David, which is designed to be a presidential retreat, and retreat means, you know, a chance to get away, maybe slow things down a little bit.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Although before taking office, President Trump found it a bit too slow, telling reporters at one point it was rustic and, quote, "you'd like it for about 30 minutes." He's since insisted he likes it better, and over the weekend, the president met with Republican leaders there. The plan was to talk over the president's second year in office, although the national conversation is dominated by a book about his first. Michael Wolff wrote that book, which included explosive quotes from former adviser Steve Bannon, which caused the president of the United States to give Bannon a nickname.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I guess sloppy Steve brought him into the White House quite a bit, and it was one of those things. That's why sloppy Steve is now looking for a job.

INSKEEP: Writer Michael Wolff also said the White House staff universally finds President Trump is not up to his job. In response, the president tweeted over the weekend he is, quote, "like really smart," and, quote, "a very stable genius."

GREENE: All right. NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis is in our studios this morning. Hi, Sue.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Good morning.

GREENE: All right. So many things to ask you about here with this book and Steve Bannon, but one thing that strikes me - Bannon has actually now given a statement to the news site Axios saying he has felt some regret over some of the quotes in this book. What is Bannon regretting here?

DAVIS: He expressed regret that he didn't respond sooner to reporting in Michael Wolff's book that he had made critical comments about the president's son, Donald Trump Jr., specifically that that 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Russian officials that the president's son helped set up was in the words of the book treasonous. Bannon said in his statement he intended to be more critical of the campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, not Donald Trump Jr., who he praised as, in his words, as a patriot and a good man. It clearly seems like an effort to make amends with a White House that has tried to bury Steve Bannon in recent days. It doesn't sound like the president is in a very forgiving mood.

INSKEEP: Bannon was also quoted, though, saying that Don Jr. was going to be cracked like an egg on national TV - we should just mention that - the original quote before he cleaned it up.

GREENE: Yeah. The book was full of quotes like that, and this book is clearly on the mind of the president at a moment when he's meeting with top Republicans over the weekend at Camp David, and they're actually talking about an agenda for 2018. So what is - what's on it, Sue?

DAVIS: One of the things that was most notable coming out of this weekend is what is not on the agenda, and that is the Republican push among some to try and overhaul social welfare programs. That has been a priority of Speaker Paul Ryan. He said he wanted to focus 2018 on doing that. He didn't get much backup from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after - before the holidays. And President Trump seemed to side with Mitch McConnell, saying if they were going to do anything on that end, it would be - have to be bipartisan. I don't think it's an understatement to say Democrats have very little interest in working with Republicans to overhaul social welfare programs in an election year.

GREENE: Although there is a bipartisan mood in the air in Washington when it comes to immigration, right? Is that an area where we could see some working together?

DAVIS: It is. The president's expected to host a group of Republicans and Democrats at the White House early this week. They know what this bill needs to do. For Democrats, a compromise needs to include some kind of legal certainty for certain people living here illegally, the so-called DREAMers. To win enough Republicans, you have to have more border enforcement, and the White House wants tougher restrictions on legal immigration. They probably have the votes. What's not clear yet is if they have the political will to do it.

GREENE: And we know you'll be covering all of it. NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis. Sue, thanks.

DAVIS: You're welcome.

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GREENE: All right. So if you live in a city like Houston, Texas, or if you live in Los Angeles where I spend most of my time or Washington, D.C., Steve, where you live, I mean, we are living with tens of thousands of immigrants from El Salvador who are part of our communities.

INSKEEP: Yeah. And today, almost 200,000 Salvadorans across this country face a big day. They are in the country with Temporary Protected Status, which means the United States let them in while their country was in crisis; in El Salvador's case, a civil war. Their status is set to expire unless the Trump administration extends the protection. The White House has already ended TPS designations for Sudanese, Nicaraguans and Haitians. So will this be any different?

GREENE: All right. NPR's Carrie Kahn is on the line. Hi, Carrie.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Hi, good morning.

GREENE: Just remind us, if you can, why Salvadorans left their country and came to the United States in the first place.

KAHN: Sure. Well, TPS was granted to Salvadorans in 2001, and their grant - the designation came because of two major earthquakes that hit the Central American country that year. And it was actually George Bush who granted the TPS status that year. So Salvadorans that were already in the country, they got protection from deportation, and the vast majority of Salvadorans in the country illegally at that time were the tens of thousands who fled the - in the 1980s and 1990s during decades of the U.S.-backed civil war and unrest there. And TPS has been extended to Salvadorans every 18 months by subsequent presidents since then - both Republicans and Democrats.

GREENE: So what exactly happens if the Trump administration decides not to extend this status practically? I mean, they'll be living in the country illegally all of a sudden. They won't be able to work.

KAHN: Well, with TPS, you're granted a work permit, and that's renewed every time the TPS is extended. So they paid for that fee - they pay a fee for the permit, but they would no longer have a work permit, and they would be required to leave the country at that time once it's no longer extended.

GREENE: Will this have an impact on El Salvador?

KAHN: Oh, it'll be great. It'll be great. First of all, El Salvador is still one of the poorest and most violent in the hemisphere, and they would also have a very hard time absorbing so many returnees at once. Unemployment is still very high in El Salvador. Economic opportunity is not good, and it's crippled by one of the highest murder rates in the world, and that's due to the organized crime and violent local gangs. And additionally, most people in El Salvador are extremely worried about what will happen when these immigrants are no longer in a position to send money back home to El Salvador. These remittances, the dollars coming back home from relatives abroad, now account for a fifth of El Salvador's GDP. That's a huge loss.

GREENE: A fifth of the country's GDP - this the money the people in the U.S. are sending.

KAHN: It's about 17 percent, yeah.

GREENE: That's incredible.

KAHN: It is.

GREENE: Well, when TPS ended for Haitians, thousands of Haitians moved to Canada. If this happens and it ends for El Salvador, where - will there be a surge of newcomers to other countries as well or mostly back to El Salvador?

KAHN: Well, you're seeing a lot of Salvadorans going south into Costa Rica and also moving north and staying in Mexico as the U.S. seems farther out of reach for many since the Trump era.

INSKEEP: You can feel the contradiction just in the name - Temporary Protected Status. It's supposed to be temporary. And yet it's clear when you hear the stories that many people who got that status have tried to make permanent lives here, which raises the dilemma of today.

GREENE: And relied on it as something much more than temporary. NPR's Carrie Kahn. Carrie, thanks, we appreciate it.

KAHN: You're welcome.

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GREENE: All right. The Golden Globe Awards last night - you know, they were about the awards, of course, but it felt like they last night were about something bigger.

INSKEEP: Because this was the first awards show since the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Since then, dozens of other powerful men have faced allegations of sexual misconduct or abuse.

(SOUNDBITE OF 75TH GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS CEREMONY)

SETH MYERS: For the male nominees in the room tonight, this is the first time in three months it won't be terrifying to hear your name read out loud.

(LAUGHTER)

GREENE: The host there, Seth Meyers, bringing up that topic. All right. The Golden Globes - this all came up as a big showcase for Time's Up, which is a new initiative to fight harassment across all industries and not just Hollywood. NPR's Mandalit del Barco was covering this last night. Hey, Mandalit.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Hey there.

GREENE: So how different did this feel from all the award shows that you've covered in the past?

DEL BARCO: Well, first of all, not only did all the - almost every actress I saw wear black, but some of them also brought along established activists as their guests. That included the founder of the #MeToo movement, Tarana Burke. And there was a lot of solidarity between the women that I saw everywhere, from actresses locking arms on the red carpet to a stolen moment backstage I saw where actress Frances McDormand and Saoirse Ronan embraced after they each won awards. I've covered a lot of these shows, and I haven't seen such camaraderie before. And of course, the real question is whether this translates into more jobs and better pay for women in Hollywood and really all industries. You know, Natalie Portman even pointed to this when she introduced the nominees for best director and she said, and here are all the - all male nominees.

GREENE: Oh, wow, she was sending a message there. Well, I - it almost feels like an afterthought because of a lot of the power of last night, but there were actually awards given as they are every year. Did any stand out?

DEL BARCO: Well, you know, "Coco," a Pixar film about the Mexican Day of the Dead celebration, it won for best animated feature, and Guillermo del Toro, who is from Mexico, he took home the best director award for "The Shape Of Water." And there were some Golden Globes history made last night. Actor Sterling K. Brown won for his role on the TV show "This Is Us." He became the first African-American man to win for acting in a TV drama.

GREENE: It feels like this morning all people are writing about, though, is Oprah Winfrey. To what extent did she really steal the show last night?

DEL BARCO: She did, and, you know, she also made history. She became the first African-American woman to win the Cecil B. DeMille Award. And that's an honor that's given by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and this year in her acceptance speech, she talked about empowering women. It was really the big moment of the night.

(SOUNDBITE OF 75TH GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS CEREMONY)

OPRAH WINFREY: So I want all the girls watching here and now to know that a new day is on the horizon.

(APPLAUSE)

DEL BARCO: And, of course, all of that immediately started a swirl of speculation online and at the awards show about whether or not Oprah Winfrey, the media mogul, might run for president.

GREENE: And she has been mentioned before. So, I mean, there were probably some people who were looking for a moment when she would be on a stage saying something that would feed that speculation I guess.

DEL BARCO: Right. Oprah for 2020, that's what they were all saying.

GREENE: NPR's Mandalit del Barco covering the Golden Globes last night - sounds like a really powerful evening. Mandalit, thanks a lot. We appreciate it.

DEL BARCO: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF THRUPENCE'S "FOREST ON THE SUN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.