LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Late last night, in response to a court order, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would once again accept renewal requests from DACA recipients. But lawmakers are still under intense pressure to come up with a deal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Several times last week, they seemed to be close to an agreement. Then, on Thursday, President Trump rejected a bipartisan immigration bill and uttered the now-famous offensive language.
Donald Trump tweeted this morning that DACA is probably dead because the Democrats don't really want it. Congressman Pete Aguilar, a Democrat from California, would disagree. For weeks, he's been working on a DACA and border security plan with Texas Republican Will Hurd. He joins us from his home in Redlands, Calif. Thank you for joining us.
PETE AGUILAR: Thanks for having me.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So broadly, your bill provides for enforcement through money for border security and technology and also for more immigration judges to address the backlog. But it also provides a path to citizenship. You worked with a GOP rep on this. What did you learn about how to come to an agreement on a tough issue with a Republican?
AGUILAR: What we learned is that there's a lot of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle who genuinely care about this issue and want to get this done. So, you know, we disagree with the president. I think there are - there is bipartisan support in order to get a deal done. And that's our focus. That's our charge. That's - what we want to do is build off of this bipartisan support to protect these young people.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do you have any sense, though, that Republicans can get on board? You know, there's hardliners in this party - Bob Goodlatte, who introduced his own bill this past week, which is much tougher and may have more support in the House.
AGUILAR: Well, look. And I think the key is which proposal has 218 votes in the House. I'm pretty confident that the Goodlatte-McSally bill doesn't have 218 votes in the House. I think the only way we do that is a bipartisan approach along the lines of what Congressman Hurd and I had been discussing. I think that's the only path in the house to get to 218.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Members of your own party - are they onboard with you bill?
AGUILAR: Yes, absolutely. We have enough to continue to move this. We're going to need to build a broader base among our Republican colleagues, and we're going to continue to plan to have conversations with them about what this proposal means. But at the end of the day, we think a narrow DACA fix plus smart wall, you know, look at technology - those are the types of things, you know, from a border security standpoint we think makes sense. So border security and a DACA fix is exactly what we want to get done here.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK. Smart wall. But President Trump has insisted on building a physical wall along the Mexican border. And, in fact, the proposed budget, the Department of Homeland Security - in the proposed budget rather, the Department of Homeland Security calls for cuts to video surveillance and no funding for new customs officers. So without a wall, how can you sell this plan to the president?
AGUILAR: Well, we think this is exactly - what border security should look like is, you know, there should be a mile-by-mile analysis on what it takes to protect our southern border. That's exactly what this bill does....
GARCIA-NAVARRO: But he doesn't seem to agree. And he can - and he's obviously the one who gets final say on this.
AGUILAR: Well, as we've seen, you know, the president's views are easily changed day to day. And sometimes, what he says or what he tweets or what the White House Legislative Affairs unit says or what Department of Homeland Security says are often very different things. So what we need to do is keep our eye on the ball, remember that we are a co-equal branch of government. And we'll present the best legislative solution to our country's problems to the president by the end of the week, hopefully.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: After President Trump's most recent comments about some immigrants, do you think it's possible, though, to really do a deal? Many Democrats in the base don't want to help policies that they see as discriminatory. And just briefly - we have a few seconds.
AGUILAR: Well, it clearly doesn't help get to a deal. The president's comments are - were not very helpful and were clearly racist. But what we want to do is to continue to forge ahead and build bipartisan consensus among Democrats and Republicans in the House in order to help these young people. That's our No. 1 focus.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And that was Congressman Pete Aguilar from California. Thank you.
AGUILAR: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.