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UC President Janet Napolitano On DACA Lawsuit


The fight to extend government funding has turned into a fight about immigration as Congress tries to avoid a government shutdown by January 19. Negotiations seemed to be humming along among a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Capitol Hill but reached a screeching halt when the president rejected it. Progress was further impeded when President Trump referred to African nations - and we warn you, this word may offend many listeners - as, quote, "shithole countries."

Meanwhile, a U.S. district judge in San Francisco has blocked President Trump's attempt to end the DACA program, saying the administration must continue accepting renewal applications. New applications are not being considered. Janet Napolitano is one of the plaintiffs in that case. She is also president of the University of California, former governor of Arizona, of course, and former secretary of homeland security under President Obama.

Governor Napolitano, thanks very much for being with us.

JANET NAPOLITANO: Well, thank you.

SIMON: Donald Trump ran for election and was pretty emphatic on the issue of immigration and his pledge to build a wall. He was elected. Are you trying to win, in the courts, a battle that you lost in an election?

NAPOLITANO: No. What we're trying to do is vindicate the rights of our students - and we have several thousand of them who are in DACA, who have undergone the individualized review that is undertaken in connection with being in DACA, and who are very productive and contributing members of our university community.

SIMON: What are some of the practical implications that might befall some of your students in the University of California system?

NAPOLITANO: Well, DACA not only defers deportation so that you don't have to live in fear that, you know, you'll be picked up by an ICE agent, but it also provides for work authorization. And, you know, our students - most of them - need to work in order to support themselves while they go through school. So it's that combined removal of fear of deportation and also work authorization that is of such value in DACA.

SIMON: DACA's set to expire on March 5. You are very familiar with the legislative process. If you could write a prescription for how to solve this problem legislatively, what would it be?

NAPOLITANO: You know, it does seem that, you know, a reasonable compromise would be some reasonable addition to border security and DACA. And put those together and add them either as standalone legislation or, indeed, to the budget bill.

SIMON: So what's called a clean bill but maybe also containing funds for border security?

NAPOLITANO: That's right because I think both Democrats and Republicans support, you know, having a strong border. And indeed, we've done a lot as a country to reinforce our border with Mexico. The crossings across that border - the illegal crossings are at record lows now. And that decrease in immigration from Mexico and Central America, South America began under President Obama and has continued.

And so if you continue to deploy more technology - perhaps some more manpower - along that border, more air cover along that border, you can sustain those current efforts. And so to me, that kind of reasonable border security makes sense. And if it is the price one must pay for DACA, you know, that's the legislative process.

SIMON: Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California and former homeland security secretary. Thanks so much for being with us.

NAPOLITANO: Thank you.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: NPR has decided in this case to spell out the vulgar word that the president reportedly used because it meets our standard for use of offensive language. It is "absolutely integral to the meaning and spirit of the story being told."] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.