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Why Rep. Espaillat Is Critical Of Trump's Immigration Policy

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Protesters opposing mass deportations turned out over the weekend.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) ICE, oh, stop the deportations. ICE, oh, stop the deportations.

INSKEEP: So they turned out, but from the indications we have so far, federal immigration agents were not unusually busy. President Trump had promoted Sunday as the start of a major enforcement action against people in the country illegally. Representative Adriano Espaillat is on the line. He's a Democrat from New York, represents many immigrants. Congressman, welcome to the program.

ADRIANO ESPAILLAT: Thank you so much. Thank you for inviting me.

INSKEEP: As far as you can tell, what happened in your district in New York over the weekend?

ESPAILLAT: We didn't see any action, to my knowledge, from ICE. I was out in the community hanging out those do's and don'ts cards, which instruct and educate immigrants as to what to do in case Immigration shows up on their doorstep or they get arrested.

INSKEEP: Saying things like, for example, don't open the door unless the immigration agent has a warrant?

ESPAILLAT: That's correct. They got to have a search warrant signed by a judge - that's the only way they can enter the house. And in many cases, the immigration officers come on an administrative order, so they do not have the search warrant. So immigrants should be educated and informed that they do not need to open the door.

INSKEEP: Why do you think ICE did not come in any large numbers in the way that people had promised they would?

ESPAILLAT: Well, this is the way the president works; this is the way he works. He threatens and then he backs up, and he creates fear, and he sets up chilling effects across the country. On many, many occasions, he has done that. Sometimes he follows through; other times he doesn't. So it's just the level of fear, the cloud of fear that permeates most neighborhoods when he does this. So our families - as you stated earlier, some families were, you know, locked up in their house and wouldn't come out because they were afraid that they would be arrested and deported.

INSKEEP: That is something we've been reporting through the day - that some people simply stayed indoors, didn't open the door for anybody. Now, with this said, saying that the raids will begin on Sunday leaves open the possibility that actually they come Monday, they come later this week. Do you expect these raids - some kind of large-scale operation is real and will happen?

ESPAILLAT: I don't know what capacity they really have to deport in massive numbers. I mean, they do continuously conduct raids; it happens on a regular basis. But a massive raid - I don't know if they have the capacity to really arrest thousands and process them. But it's just a threat and the fear that's really harmful, psychologically, as well in real terms for communities across the country.

INSKEEP: Now, you mentioned that sometimes the president makes threats and follows through on them; sometimes he makes threats and backs down. Fact check - absolutely true; the president often says things will happen in the future that don't happen. But that leads to a question - do you suspect that you and that immigrant communities are being toyed with in a way for dramatic or political reasons?

ESPAILLAT: I agree. I think that he's playing games, that he's riling up his base - his base of white nationalists, of conservatives, of racists - that need to hear from him that he's conducting these kinds of actions. And so, in many ways, this is really politics at its very best for him, right?

INSKEEP: Although, I have ask, though, Congressman - these are people, according to the government, people who face deportation orders. There's been a proceeding. There's been a court proceeding. There is an order for them to leave the country. And some people are listening to you saying that you're going about giving them advice about how to evade those deportation orders. Do you want people to be able to stay, even if a court has found they should go?

ESPAILLAT: Well, you know, what I'm telling them is what their rights are. And unless there is a search warrant, you know, they don't have to open the door. If they are arrested, they're entitled to speak to an attorney, they're entitled to stay silent and not communicate with the agent. So these are the laws of the land. These are the do's and don'ts of - for anybody that gets - you know, gets approached by law enforcement. So it should apply to them as well. And...

INSKEEP: But do you want them to be able to stay?

ESPAILLAT: I would like for them to have their process in a real way, but not in a midnight raid. I would like them to stay. I think that they're here, many of them, contributing to the economy. And, of course, we're not - most of them are families, by the way, and most of them are women with children. So we would like for them to stay, yeah.

INSKEEP: We've been talking with Representative Adriano Espaillat of New York. Thanks so much.

ESPAILLAT: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.