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News Brief: DACA Deal Is Stalled, North Korea Talks


President Trump doesn't sound very optimistic about an immigration deal.


No. Yesterday, he tweeted, deals can't get made when there is no trust. He was referring, apparently, to Democratic Senator Dick Durbin. Durbin is the senator who publicly affirmed that the president in a meeting offered racist views of immigrants. Numerous reports say President Trump told friends he liked his dismissal of immigrants from Haiti and Africa until the reaction turned out to be worse than expected. Now the president blames Democrats for the failure to reach an immigration deal, although Republican Senator Lindsey Graham says it's on the president.


LINDSEY GRAHAM: Mr. President, close the deal. Eighty percent of Americans want to give the DACA kids a better life, and 80 percent of Americans want to secure our border and change a broken immigration system. It's going to take you, Mr. President, to get this done.

INSKEEP: DACA - that's Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, and the quote there was from WIS Television.

MARTIN: All right, NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell is with us in the studio this morning.

Hey, Kelsey.


MARTIN: All right, so just to recap, Congress has to pass a spending bill by Friday to avoid a government shutdown. Democrats won't sign a spending bill that doesn't include protections for DACA recipients. So let's focus on that. How likely is a solution to DACA right now?

SNELL: A solution to DACA seemed very unlikely this week. One option that they have is they could - Congress could pass another short-term spending bill. We've been seeing them pass a lot of short-term spending bills, and the House is already preparing to pass something that would give them more time to keep working on a DACA deal and allow them to do a long-term spending bill perhaps sometime in February. So that seems to be the most likely path at this point.

MARTIN: Just buy more time...

SNELL: Yeah, buying time...

MARTIN: ...Because this is so hard. Why is this so hard? I mean, what is the particular sticking point at this point in the negotiations?

SNELL: Well, it's very hard to know exactly what the White House wants, and that's part of what the issue is here. So Democrats say that they came up with this bipartisan solution - it was worked out by a group of six senators - Republicans and Democrats - that would've addressed those four pillars that we heard the White House talking about last week - dealing with immigration, dealing with the DACA recipients and controlling some of the flow of people through other immigration programs.

MARTIN: Right.

SNELL: Now...

MARTIN: This is the deal that they brought to the White House when these inflammatory remarks were made.

SNELL: Right. And Republicans in the House have a separate plan. Bob Goodlatte from Virginia has come up with a plan for House Republicans that would go even further than that. It would crack down on sanctuary cities, and it would require companies to use what's known as E-Verify to check the legal status of the people that they employ.

GRAHAM: So - but the president said he was on board with the plan - the bipartisan plan that was brought to him. And then he just changed his mind.

SNELL: Well, he was on board with the idea of a bipartisan plan, but he hadn't signed off on this specifically. And then we saw him bring in people from the hard-line side of the right who got him very excited and reminded him that he had made promises to his base.

INSKEEP: And Republicans are shifting here from what was seen as a bipartisan deal to something that they might have to pass with Republican votes only, which can be a tremendous challenge if it gets to that point, given their narrow majority.

SNELL: And there's no clear sense that that would actually, A, pass the House, or B, ever pass the Senate. There is a good chance that they could cobble together enough conservative votes to get something like that through the House, but that is not likely to pass in the Senate.

MARTIN: All right, NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell - I have a feeling we might be talking to you again this week, Kelsey. Thanks so much for your time this morning.

SNELL: Thank you.


MARTIN: North Korea and South Korea are still talking to each other about the Winter Olympics.

INSKEEP: At least they're talking. The North has sent an unusual delegate to this round of talks - a North Korean pop music star. And with that addition to the talks, the two sides reached a little breakthrough. The North will send an orchestra to the Winter Games next month. Across the Pacific, the United States and Canada are hosting a summit to talk about North Korea's nuclear threat, but notably absent from that meeting are Russia and China.

MARTIN: All right, we are joined by The Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Cheng, who's been following all this.

Hey, Jonathan.

JONATHAN CHENG: Hi. Good morning.

MARTIN: Let's start with this first meeting, the one on the Korean peninsula. So they're talking about a sporting event - right? - the Olympics, but there seems to be a lot of musical diplomacy happening. Explain the deal here.

CHENG: Yeah, well, you're right. The Olympics are supposed to be about sports, and that's what South Korea thought they were getting when they had gotten a sort of agreement in principle from North Korea to send a delegation to Pyeongchang, where the Olympics are going to be held. But instead, Pyongyang says, no, we don't want to talk about the athletes just yet; we first want to talk about an art troupe, a propaganda band. And South Korea right now is not really in a position to want to say no. They are keen to get dialogue moving in any way, so I think they went along with it. And lo and behold, after a couple of hours of talks on Monday, there is a 140-member orchestra coming south to South Korea to perform.

MARTIN: At the Olympics or in a different venue? I mean, who's going to be the audience?

CHENG: Well, we don't have a lot of specifics yet, but one of the venues will definitely be Gangneung, which is a city where all of the ice events are going to be held - so the figure skating and the hockey. And then the other venue is going to be in Seoul, the capital of South Korea. And, you know, when we talk about an orchestra, there are indeed woodwinds, and strings and brass, but if you go and look on YouTube - and you can watch any of the performances - you'll see electric guitars. You'll see opera singers. You'll see drummers. You'll see all sorts of different things. And it's a different conception of music up there. And, of course, all of the songs are tributes to either the Kim dynasty or to missile launches and things like that. So that's what we're getting.

MARTIN: All right, let's move to North America here. In Vancouver, the U.S. and Canada are hosting their own summit about North Korea's nuclear threat. What do we know about this meeting? In particular, what do we know about why Russia and China aren't going?

CHENG: Well, clearly, this is something that the U.S. and Canada are trying to get together. And there was a sense among some of the experts who are watching this that the U.S. is really putting its stamp on this, even though it's being held in Vancouver. The U.S., of course, has a bigger stake, you could argue, in what happens with North Korea. And so if the U.S. stamp is going to be on this, then that's not the kind of discussion that China and Russia want to get into. I think Russia and China want to talk about talks, and the U.S. wants to talk about pressure, and that's where the divide is.

MARTIN: Do we have any sense if this meeting on the Korean Peninsula is ever going to get to the substance of nuclear disarmament, or is it just, like, way too early for that?

CHENG: Well, you know, South Korea raised it at the - yeah. They raised it at the first discussion last week, and North Korea said, we don't want to talk about that, and so it's not on the agenda anymore.

INSKEEP: So what we know from the last year or so of confrontation, there are more sanctions on North Korea. There are more threats, plenty of talk of nuclear buttons, actual talk of music and the Olympics and so forth. What we don't know, though, is what the United States and other nations might find that would put sufficient pressure on North Korea to cause it to change its course.

MARTIN: Right. OK - Jonathan Cheng of The Wall Street Journal for us this morning. Thanks so much, Jonathan.

CHENG: Thank you.


MARTIN: All right, now to this very grim story out of Southern California may be disturbing to some listeners. This is something that happened, Steve, in Perris, Calif.

INSKEEP: Perris, Calif., about an hour east of Los Angeles - a 17-year-old girl called 911. She said she had escaped her own home, where she and her 12 siblings were being held captive by their parents. Police went to the home, and they found that some of the brothers and sisters were chained, appeared to be starving. The victims are between 2 and 29 years old, although some looked to be much younger than their age because they were so malnourished. The parents have been arrested and charged with torture and other crimes.

MARTIN: All right, Shane Newell is a reporter with The Press-Enterprise newspaper. He's been covering this.

Shane, what can you tell us about these people, these parents who are now in custody?

SHANE NEWELL: I spoke with the neighbors yesterday. I was there for about four hours. And most of the neighbors have expressed complete shock. A lot of them had limited interaction with the family and maybe seen three or four of them come out rather infrequently. But the entire neighborhood is in shock. The house, I guess, was purchased about three or four years ago. No one really knew them closely, and just no one that I spoke to had ever gotten to know these parents or these kids on a personal basis.

MARTIN: I mean, just - it's crazy to think that these people were keeping their own children - 13 people - children - young people - in their basement. I mean, so no one - none of the neighbors you talked to had any suspect that there was something weird going on?

NEWELL: No, and that's what's strange about the size, as well. I spoke with one neighbor who had a friend who had the same exact floor plan - a four-bedroom, three-bathroom home - and he expressed shock at the concept that 13 children and their two parents would even have the space to live there. But just like I said before, there's a neighborhood watch group. There's a Facebook group where all the residents and homeowners can get together, and talk and let each other know about what's going on. So the fact that this was going on in their backyards has really just shocked everyone in the community.

MARTIN: Right. Do you have - do we have any idea how long these children were kept there?

NEWELL: We don't at the moment. We do know that the house was purchased in August 2014, but it's unclear as to whether this abuse had continued before the family had moved into their home.

MARTIN: Anything about the parents - what they did for a living, how they were perceived in the community?

NEWELL: One of the interesting things that we've begin (ph) to uncover is that it looks like three times since 2011, they had renewed their vows at the Elvis chapel in Las Vegas. So we were actually able to obtain a video of one of their marriage renewals that had been posted publicly on the chapel's website - so a lot of questions, I guess, about the fact that they had done that so many times. I know that they had also filed bankruptcy in 2011 - so just trying to put all the pieces together and see who knew what when.

MARTIN: Right, it's still very early in this investigation. Obviously, a lot of questions - we will keep asking them. Shane Newell - reporter with The Press-Enterprise newspaper. Thanks so much, Shane.

NEWELL: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF ELUVIUM'S "REPOSE IN BLUE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.