Tanzina Vega: On Monday afternoon a gunman in Boulder Colorado opened fire in a king Sooper supermarket killing 10 people.
Speaker 2: I barricaded one of my co-workers behind multiple trash cans.
Speaker 3: Everyone was just running out the back dock and jumping over the ledges like flooding down the stairs.
Speaker 4: I think about the unimaginable pain of their families. I grieve over the loss of the feeling of safety in our community.
Speaker 5: We will get through this together and we will do by leaning on each other. We will get through this by remembering every person we lost and love every person we meet even more.
Tanzina: Those were interviews with boulder residents and community leaders following the shooting courtesy of the AP. The Kings Sooper shooting is the latest in a list of high-profile mass shootings in Colorado, which include the 1999 shooting in Columbine High School, the 2012 shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, and the 2015 shooting at Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood. Overall, Colorado ranks eighth in the nation for mass shootings, but policy on gun control remains limited. I'm Tanzina Vega and the future of gun policy in Colorado is where we start today on the takeaway.
Representative Diana DeGette serving Colorado's first congressional district is with us. Representative to get was elected in 1996, having represented that state during these three horrific events. Congresswoman, it's great to have you with us.
Representative Diana DeGette: Tanzina it's great being with you.
Tanzina: This is not the first shooting you've lived through since you've been in office. When you see the events unfold in Boulder, what are your immediate thoughts having witnessed Columbine and others?
Representative DeGette: Well, everybody who has been around these shootings, it's really PTSD for all of us. It's just, "This can't be happening again." I was a very new Congressperson when Columbine happened and now Columbine is in my congressional district and I just remember sitting there watching with horror the whole event unfolds and then, of course, Aurora, Planned Parenthood, there have been a couple of other smaller ones that didn't even get covered on the national press.
Now, of course, Boulder. Everybody knows somebody who was there or somebody who goes there. That's a very popular grocery store in Boulder. It's just the circles get wider and wider and pretty soon the whole state is just grieving over it.
Tanzina: What are you hearing from your constituents about the shooting?
Representative DeGette: People are angry as always, people are very sad. They're committed to supporting their friends in Boulder. Of course, in my district, they're recommitted to comprehensive gun safety legislation which I've worked on not just in Congress, but even back when I was in the state legislature in the mid-1990s. It's very difficult because we're pushing against the gun groups, the NRA, and the other ones who have a really extraordinarily disproportionate amount of power among, particularly Republican politicians.
Tanzina: We know, Congresswoman that the NRA, in particular, has been significantly weakened in terms of its financial power and others. Does this go beyond the NRAs influence?
Representative DeGette: Well, I think I think having had a broad historical view of this, I do think the NRA has been weakened. I do think that the public has become much more supportive of common-sense gun safety regulations, but I still think that in parts of the country, the gun lobby, including the gun manufacturers has a disproportionate amount of influence. I do think overtime is changing. Unfortunately, it's just not changing fast enough to save those 10 people in Boulder this week or the eight people in Atlanta last week.
Tanzina: What is your message to the residents of Colorado who-- Americans across the country I think we living the fear of being in everyday public spaces. What is your message to the residents of Colorado who've been at movie theaters and high school, at supermarkets, and increasingly feels that no place is safe?
Representative DeGette: Well, one of the problems that we have is that we have these high-capacity magazines and these assault rifles. For example, Boulder and also in the Aurora theater, where you might have somebody who's mentally ill or deranged they go in, well, if they had had a pistol, they might have been able to shoot one or two people before the police rushed in because in both Aurora and in Boulder, the police were there within moments, but in Boulder, of course, the police officer was immediately shot and in Aurora, you had actually military personnel who were in the movie theater who couldn't stop the shooter.
Obviously, we need to strengthen our mental health counseling, we need to do everything as we can as a society to identify folks, we need to have background checks and waiting periods, but if we start now working on eliminating these assault rifles and the high capacity magazines, at least you could eliminate the carnage that happens when you have a shooter go into one of these places.
Tanzina: We're speaking with Congresswoman Diana to get from Colorado about the recent shootings there. This is The Takeaway. Congresswoman, I'd like to play you a clip from December 2012. This was days after a horrific shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, where a gunman killed more than 20 people, most of them children at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Representative DeGette: I'm Congresswoman Diana DeGette from the First District of Colorado, Columbine is in my district now. Aurora is right down the street from my house. As you can hear from all of us, and as you can see on our faces, even today, the horror of Newtown remains unspeakable. As Congresswoman McCarthy said, we've been here before, over and over again.
Tanzina: Congresswoman, many people said that if the events that Sandy Hook couldn't make gun policy change then nothing would be able to. In that clip, the exacerbation is clear how we've been here over and over and over again, and yet nothing seems to happen. Let's talk about policy in Colorado. There are mandatory background checks, but a court blocked a measure to ban assault weapons just days before this latest shooting. Is it realistic to expect gun policy reform, at least in the state of Colorado?
Representative DeGette: Well, I was just talking with some of our state legislators yesterday, and they are looking at ways to bolster our gun safety legislation. The reason why the Boulder Court blocked that provision was because there's a supremacy clause in this state statute that says that local governments can't go beyond that. Now, in Denver, which is my district, we don't have assault rifles. I think that you could strengthen the laws.
When I heard that clip you just played, for me, it sounds like something I might say today, but I will say that after Sandy Hook, it was so horrifying, but there have been positive things that happened. As I say, they just didn't happen very fast. A lot of the parents and a lot of advocacy groups have gotten much, much more powerful. Of course, after the terrible shooting of my former colleague Gabby Giffords, she started a gun safety group. They've been enormously powerful too. Over time, the movement is developing momentum. As I say, it's just so frustratingly slow and even though the public agrees with us on many of these gun safety measures, it's difficult to get it through the legislative bodies.
Tanzina: Congresswoman, Colorado ranks eighth in the country for experiencing mass shootings, why do these keep happening in the state of Colorado? Is there something that we need to understand about it or is it purely a function of gun laws that need to be updated?
Representative DeGette: Well, actually as you said, Colorado has more gun safety laws than many states do, which have fewer mass shootings than we do. In fact, what I was talking about with the legislators and some of the rest of the Congressional delegation yesterday, was the idea of trying to do some study or put together a panel to see why this happens in Colorado because we really don't have any idea. Boulder is a very quiet progressive college town. The idea that something like this would happen in a grocery store in Boulder is just unthinkable to us.
I was asked the other day by a reporter, how you could tell the difference between people who were carrying their weapons safely and weren't in a grocery store. I think this reporter was assuming everybody out here in Colorado walks around carrying assault rifles, and that's just not true. I've never seen anybody carrying a gun in a grocery store in Denver, or in Boulder. We just can't figure out why this is happening in places like this.
Tanzina Vega: What change are you hoping to see in light of this shooting because you've been talking about change for decades now? What do you think is going to happen as a result of this? Is there enough? You mentioned that the public is changing its view on guns and gun violence, but we're still at a place where real systemic change hasn't happened yet.
Representative DeGette: Well, the US House just passed two bills last week on background checks, on strengthening background checks. That would really help. It would help with criminals, and also people with mental health issues. Those bills have gone to the Senate. We hope that there will be some movement over in the Senate. Then, we're going to continue to work on our other legislation. I have a bill with Congressman Ted Deutch on high-capacity magazines. Of course, he's got the Pulse nightclub in his district. Then, banning the assault rifles. We're just going to keep pushing that.
Another big difference is we now have Joe Biden in the White House. When Joe Biden was in the Senate, one of his big issues was banning assault rifles. We have hopes that we now have a majority in the House who will pass gun safety legislation, we're going to have to work on the Senate, but then we have a president who wasn't afraid to get up at a press conference this week and say we need gun safety legislation. We can't give up because as I said, we have hundreds of people right here in Colorado and their families and everybody who are still traumatized by all of these shootings. We're going to keep fighting for this until justice wins out.
Tanzina Vega: Congresswoman Diana DeGette, represents Colorado's first congressional district. Congresswoman, thanks for being with us.
Representative DeGette: Thanks for having me. Now we turn to you. What's your reaction to the recent mass shootings? Have you grown numb to them? Or what changes do you want to see?
Speaker 6: I live in Colorado where we are hyper-aware of mass shootings here. A friend of mine for nearly three decades was killed in the shootings in Boulder this week. I taught at one of our local universities where many of my students were enrolled in Columbine when that shooting happened. One of those former students now has sons enrolled at the STEM School where they had a mass shooting two years ago.
I lived down the street from the Chucky Cheese Restaurant when that shooting took place in 1993. One of our state reps Rhonda Fields is a friend of mine whose son and his fiance were killed in a drive-by shooting. Lastly, I had two friends in the Aurora theater shooting. One had injuries so serious that she still struggles today. Yes, gun control is a very big issue here, and most of my friends have been impacted in one way or another.
Doris: This is Doris from Greenville, South Carolina. I haven't grown numb. It's shocking and tragic every time a mass shooting happens. What I can't understand is why meaningful gun ownership reform doesn't ever seem to pass in Washington. What does it say about this country that we have 4% of the world's population and over 40% of the world's guns, that we need our heads examined? Sadly, that's how it appears to me.
Sherry: Hi, this is Sherry from St. Louis. I hate to say that I'm almost numb to mass shootings. I'm really frustrated and angry that the government won't do anything to help stop these.
Chris: This is Chris from Lebanon, Missouri. Well, every one of these mass shootings, past and present are tragic. The Democrats are constantly using them as a jumping-off point for greater gun control. How's the gun control going in New York than Chicago, not well, period. They need to stop. They need to look at the real problem. It's not a gun problem, it's a people problem.
Speaker 7: I haven't grown numb. I'm just angry about the denial of the dangers of people owning high-powered rifles and magazines. Congress should pass an assault weapons ban and background checks. I don't understand why those who support gun rights are so adamant about keeping assault rifles in the hands of people.
Susan: Hi, this is Susan from Vashon, Washington. It feels almost worse every time I hear of one of these mass shootings. It pierces my heart and exacerbates my frustration with this country's love affair with guns. What would I like to see change? Honestly, I would like to see all Americans put their guns down and melt them into roadways.
Pablo Manriquez: Hello, my name is Pablo Manriquez. I'm in Washington, DC. Unfortunately, I'm totally numb at this point to the reality of mass shootings in the United States. I know that's wrong to say and callous, but it's like my mind becomes immediately incurious when there's a mass shooting. I like immediately go into these assumptions about how well surely is white terrorism, it always seems to be white terrorism. Frankly, I'm just so over white grievance that my brain just like revolts.
Speaker 8: Well, I wouldn't say numb, but it is the new reality. Gun ban won't work because there's simply too many guns already. There's been no talk of disarming the police, which would have to be a pillar of any agreement going forward, and no one wants to ask why lone wolves have declared war on society.
Maxine: This is Maxine from San Francisco. I have been horrified by the recent spate of mass killings. Although I personally do not have a gun in my home, I do understand that some people may want a handgun or hunting rifle. However, it is incomprehensible to me that assault weapons are not banned in this country. I believe banning assault weapons and increasing funds to support mental health will save many innocent lives that otherwise are bound to be lost in the next year.
President Joe Biden: I don't need to wait another minute, let alone an hour to take common-sense steps that will save the lives in the future. I urge my colleagues in the house of Senate to act.
Tanzina: In the wake of the mass shootings in Atlanta, Georgia, and Boulder, Colorado, President Joe Biden has proposed a ban on assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and an expansion of background checks for gun sales. It's an issue that Biden has been forced to deal with throughout his political career. Most notably when he was vice president after the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, where 26 people, including 20 children were killed. Even then a proposed bill on gun control failed to get bipartisan support.
Now Biden is once again calling for action as President, but he faces a divided senate where Democrats only hold a slim majority. Sahil Kapur is a national political reporter for NBC News, and he joins me now. Welcome back to The Takeaway, Sahil.
Sahil Kapur: Great to be back.
Tanzina: Biden has been through this before. What is he proposing now? I'll admit when I heard him call for the assault weapons ban, and assault weapons, I had flashbacks to the '90s having remembered that attempt at doing that. What is Biden proposing exactly?
Sahil: It's funny you bring that up. There are some similarities for sure to the 1990s. This is the first time since the 1990s, that moment that you pointed out that an all-Democratic government, the White House, the House, and the Senate, controls those levers and is attempting to do gun control. It's a very significant thing, because the last time they had those levers of power in 2009, and 2010, they made no attempt to do gun control. So that's one of the most significant things that's different between now and the 2013 attempt to do gun control.
Back then the Republicans controlled the House and no matter what happened in the Democratic-led Senate, it was understood that it was probably going to fall in the House. What President Biden is proposing is several things. The first is universal background checks. Everyone who gets a gun has to get a background check. There are loopholes in the system right now, people can buy a gun online, people in certain states can buy a gun from a federally unlicensed seller at gun shows, and the transaction can go through without a background check.
That's the single biggest thing that is in the context of a debate in Congress at the moment because more aggressive things that President Biden has pushed, like the '90s and assault weapons ban a prohibition on high-capacity ammunition that has been used in a number of these mass shootings, that doesn't have even a majority in the Senate, let alone a supermajority to get the 60 votes.
Tanzina: The White House has said that they're also considering executive actions. How successful do we expect those would be?
Sahil: Well, the President certainly has the authority to use executive action to put certain limits, but it's very, very, let's say constrained what the President can do by himself. What he can do is things like classify certain gun, what's known as ghost guns, under categories that have to follow the rules, people build a gun through parts, and it resembles another gun that is subject to certain regulations, you can classify them that way, but beyond that, there's very little he can do. This has to be done through an act of Congress.
Tanzina: Sahil, when he was on the campaign trail, President Biden promised that he would send a bill to Congress day one, repealing liability protections for gun manufacturers. Where does that stand?
Sahil: He's so supportive of that policy. It's something that he campaigned on, it's something that's become a matter of Democratic consensus. It is not clear where that stands in the context of a debate in the moment. The senators I've spoke to are focusing much more on universal background checks as the basis of the debate. President Biden continues to support that policy, which essentially removes a special layer of immunity for gun dealers, in the event that their guns are used criminally.
The idea is not to punish gun shops that didn't know that they were selling to a dangerous person, but to punish gun sellers who know that on some level, criminals are buying their guns and then who use that extra layer of immunity to try to protect themselves from liability.
Tanzina: Sahil, of course, we talked about this in the previous segment with Congresswoman DeGette, but there's been some legislation on background checks that's already passed the house. We know the Senate has very, very, very slim margins here. Is it likely to make it through the Senate?
Sahil: The House-passed bill is unlikely to get through the Senate. The reason is Democrats don't appear to have 50 of their 50 members on board for it. The most notable holdout is Senator Joe Manchin.
Tanzina: Democrats don't. Tell us about what Manchin's issue is here because Manchin wields a lot of power. What is Manchin's issue with this?
Sahil: I've asked him that exact question. I've spoken to him a number of times about this. His issue is that he believes the House-passed bill goes too broad. He wants more significant exemptions for gun transfers between family members and person-to-person transfers that are not commercial. For instance, you sell a gun to your cousin, in his view, should not go through a background check. In the view of the House Bill, that should go through a background check.
The House Bill has much more narrow exemptions for things like a gift between a father and a son, that sort of thing. That's as far as House Democrats want to go, but Manchin believes that exemptions should be broader. His bill does include broader exemptions, a bill he's written with Pat Toomey, the Republican from Pennsylvania. That bill or a version of that bill, if anything is going to get to 60 votes, it's going to be something like that because the Democratic proposals have no Republican support.
Tanzina: They don't have the support of Joe Manchin, who's been playing the swing-role here for quite a while. Sahil, when we look at what's happening, and we just talked about this in the previous segment with Congresswoman DeGette, who remembered Columbine and Sandy Hook, and we mentioned the Pulse shooting. There has to be some humanity understanding going through this process right now. The holding of this bill, what Manchin's doing, in particular, for saying we can't transfer firearms to family members, just seems insignificant in light of the death toll that we've experienced in this country.
Sahil: A very significant death toll. Constant mass shootings happening in the United States all the time. Here's the problem, every time an attempt at gun control comes up, no matter how modest the bill is, no matter how popular it is, it ends up being portrayed by gun rights activists as a first step to repealing the Second Amendment and taking it away, and that gets people scared, it gets people worked up.
It gets people calling their members of Congress and saying stuff that oppose this, and Republicans, in particular, tend to answer those calls pretty reliably, and that's the problem. People want gun control, they're going to have to elect more senators and more members of Congress who agree with them, and they can't just point the polls to do that because one party the Republicans are very dug in against doing much about this.
Tanzina: The epidemic of gun violence in the United States goes beyond mass shootings. In 2020 alone, almost 20,000 people in this country died as a result of gun violence. Sahil, let's talk about that. How would the proposed legislation even affect gun violence generally, not just mass shootings because we focus a lot on assault rifles, but there are also a lot of gun violence that happens with handguns?
Sahil: Right. The background checks bill comes in here. Basically, there are gaps in the system now or certain people can buy guns without the completion of a background check. We saw that most notably in Charleston several years ago, a shooter walked into a predominantly Black church, and ended up killing a bunch of people. Basically, one of the House-passed Democratic bills deals with this by saying, if a background check doesn't go through within three days, the transfer cannot go through.
That's a loophole and current law, it closes that. That's an example. There are other things such as buying guns online or buying guns through the provision of gun shows where you don't have to complete a background check. The hospitals would close those loopholes.
Tanzina: The NRA was one of the biggest lobbyists against, I would say, gun control, but they've lost a lot of power, particularly financially. What influence do they have at this point, Sahil?
Sahil: The NRA is certainly weaker today than it's been in a long time. They have all sorts of financial troubles. They're under investigation. They don't quite have the power to make Democrats quake in their boots as they did maybe a decade ago, but the influence they have is largely a mailing list that can be activated very quickly. The moment Congress considers gun control, they send these activists out, they ask them to make calls to Congress, they try to flood offices with calls of opposition to any gun control.
That's the power that the NRA has ultimately wielded. They don't have the financial strength that they used to, but at the same time, they haven't really lost much strength in terms of being able to persuade Republicans to their side.
Tanzina: Finally, Biden portrayed himself on the campaign trail as a unifier, but the topic of guns is one that we know is polarizing and it's been an issue that he's struggled with. How do you suspect he's going to handle it this time around, Sahil? We've got about a minute left.
Sahil: Sure. President Biden has increasingly refined and redefined his vision of unity. He talked on the campaign trail about an epiphany among Republicans once he was elected, once President Trump was out of the way that they would work with him more cooperatively, that has not happened, but what has happened, what he has done is talk about his vision of unity in terms of what the public supports.
He has pointed to polls, national surveys that show broad public support for his initiatives, including on gun control. There's large public support for stricter limits on guns. He has pointed to that as evidence that he is governing in a unified way, and argue that Republicans are the ones being obstructionist, that they're purposefully trying to divide the country. There is no uniting Americans on the issue of gun control because it is a divided country, at least in terms of their elected representatives, but public opinion is on his side here.
Tanzina: Sahil Kapur is the national political reporter for NBC News. Thanks so much.
Sahil: Thank you.
Speaker 9: I am saddened every time I hear about another mass shooting or any shooting. It angers me that the NRA has Congress in its pockets. It makes it all the more necessary to set term limits for Congress and the Senate. I just can't say that enough. We need term limits for the Congress and the Senate to actually make change happen with regards to gun laws.
Speaker 10: In regard to the most recent mass shooting, I am quite disturbed at how little the event fazed me. I saw the breaking news on Twitter. I read the headline. I paused for maybe 10 seconds, and I kept scrolling. I worked the following day in retail, and it wasn't until maybe 3:00 PM that day that a colleague asked if I'd heard about what happened in Colorado. It wasn't breaking news, it was just news and what it's like to see differently, that's tough. I guess we just need to humanize these victims, but ultimately, I just don't want people dying at the hands of cruel, cruel, cruel, cruel people.
Wendy Wittenberg: Hi, this is Wendy Wittenberg from Farmington, Minnesota. My reaction is horror. I cannot be numb to the senseless evil violence that mentally ill people have inflicted upon innocent people in this country. In every instance, there are people who knew that the perpetrators were unbalanced. In every case, they got their hands on weapons with documented mental illness on the rise during this pandemic and during this incredibly divisive past year we've had.
It's time for Congress and all the state legislators to craft solutions to some very well-defined problems. Namely, that we need to fully fund mental health services. There needs to be limits on gun sold without background checks. We need to expand funds for serving teens with the very kinds of programs that build assets and give them reasons to live. National solidarity that America will harshly prosecute hate crimes of any kind. By the way, our family owns guns, and we do support hunting and gun ownership. These crimes have nothing to do with the Second Amendment.
Laura: Hi, this is Laura from Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts. My reaction to this week's shooting was enough is enough. COVID has taken so many innocent lives, and we still have to worry about being shot. How many mass shootings will it take until real gun legislation is enacted in every state? It's shameful and heartbreaking, and yet I feel powerless as a citizen to make any real impact on gun laws.
Chris: Hi, my name is Chris and I live in Las Vegas, Nevada. I am just exhausted by our government's complete lack of action on gun control. We need universal background checks. We need to stop the sale of assault rifles to private people, to private citizens, and we need to deal with the mental health issues that are just rampant in our country.
Louis: This is Cindy from St. Louis. I’m a gun owner. I don't have a problem with people owning guns, but I do have a problem with them owning weapons of war. Totally unnecessary. We need to enact other common-sense gun laws as well. We definitely need to close the gap on background checks. We need to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. The situation is just going to continue to get worse in this country until we take action.
Tanzina: An increase in migrants arriving at the southern border largely from Central America is testing the Biden Administrations' approach to immigration policy. According to Politico, in February alone, more than 100,000 migrants were apprehended or turn themselves over to authorities at the border. This week, Biden tapped Vice President Kamala Harris to lead the United States response and reduce the number of migrants arriving at the southern border by addressing the root causes of their departures from countries including Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
Vice President Kamala Harris: There's no question that this is a challenging situation. As the President has said, there are many factors that lead precedent to leave these countries. While we are clear that people should not come to the border now, we also understand that we will enforce the law and that we also because we can shoot them and walk at the same time, let's address the root causes that cause people to make the trek as the President has described, to come here.
Tanzina: While a significant portion of those arriving at the border are unaccompanied minors, they're also adults hoping to find work in the United States, as vaccine distributions continue and sectors of the economy begin to come back to life. With me to discuss Vice President Harris's first solo mission is Ariel Ruiz Soto, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, and Eugene Daniels, a White House correspondent for Politico and Playbook co-author. Thanks to you both for being with us.
Ariel Ruiz Soto: Thank you.
Eugene Daniels: Thank you so much for having me.
Tanzina: Eugene, President Biden has been dismantling many of the controversial immigration policies of the Trump Administration, he repealed the Muslim ban, he stopped construction on the border wall, he introduced legislation to provide a path to citizenship for around 11 million immigrants in the United States, but he hands this issue to Vice President Kamala Harris, what are your initial thoughts on that?
Eugene: I think, first of all, we have been begging and asking for months, like, "What is her portfolio? What she’s going to be working on?" The things that they kept telling us, aides kept telling me was that she would be dealing with the most important issues facing the administration. This is one of the most important issues facing the administration. Everything they've said is that her experience in California as Attorney General, she led a group of Attorney Generals down to some of these countries to meet with their counterparts. She worked on immigration issues in the Senate as well, and that she had the experience that they want.
My read is that all of that experience together and her ability as her aides tell me and people who've worked with her in the Senate, to look at this as both a diplomatic concern, a policy issue, and also like a humanitarian crisis. They're also very clear to make it to say that this isn't about her fixing the border crisis, this is about these long-standing issues, these root causes of why people leave these northern triangle countries.
Tanzina: Let's talk about that because that's something that's obviously an international issue, that's something that would require, I'm sure the buy-in of the Secretary of State and others at some point. Ariel, Harris is tasked with no small task here, is to really deal with the underlying issues that are motivating this migration. Where does she even begin?
Ariel: Well, it's a complicated strategy that has to be laid out for Vice President Harris. What needs to begin at the moment is to first set up and re-establish a working relationship with countries and the governments in the region. That includes one that is based on principles and transparency and accountability. That is what has been lacking so far, that there has been some initiatives in the past, but it's been unclear so far, what has been the outcomes of those initiatives, and exactly what the countries from the region are willing to do to also address the migration crisis that we're seeing across the region.
Here, it's important to note that there are some things that the United States can do in the short-term, but to really set up a sustainable regional migration system requires for the other countries to actually be willing to invest their own resources, and also embezzle political capital to create some of the longer pathways that we need to see here so that we're not recurring to these types of situations again in a few years.
Tanzina: Ariel, with the understanding that this is a deeply complex issue that is not something that we can figure out in two segments on our show today. If we had to identify an immediate priority, that Vice President Harris, particularly in terms of this international effort that has to be made, where should she begin? Is it Guatemala? Is it Mexico? Is it El Salvador? Is there something that rises to the very top that should be handled first?
Ariel: I think it depends on what countries you're looking at. That's something that I'm hoping that the Vice President will take a close look at when she begins to engage with the countries. In Guatemala, for example, education and malnutrition are the key topics to be addressed. In Honduras, it has to be corruption and political instability. In El Salvador, violence has been, though it's been lowered and homicides have been falling in that country, more needs to be done to actually work with at-risk youth who may be at risk of joining gangs in that country.
Tanzina: Eugene, President Biden has had a similar task when he was Vice President himself under then-President Obama, that didn't work out so well, did it?
Eugene: No, it didn't. we still have the same issues. Then, you had four years of an administration that took a different tact when it comes to these. I think that is something that we've been asking aides like, "What lessons did he learn?" Ambassador Roberta Jacobson, she's a Special Assistant to the President and was previously the US envoy to Mexico, she said that all of them that worked on this learned a lot.
They learned how and who to give money to, they learned that because of some of the corruption in some of these countries, that you have to be careful about just giving it to leaders in the country because of that corruption and finding ways to use public-private partnerships to get at those root causes, make sure that they're, as I think the President said on Thursday in his press conference, lights in the streets, so people can walk safely.
Things like that, that they have learned from what he did. Obviously, they didn't start really dealing with that issue until toward the end of the second term. When I talk to aides they say that Kamala Harris has the benefit of starting this very early on, we're still in the first few months of their term. I think that part of it is good for her in the sense that maybe there is some kind of status quo shake-up that can be fixed in the next few years.
Tanzina: Ariel, Obama had a history or was called the Deporter in Chief, not very empathetic, according to many immigration policy advocates towards his treatment of immigrants here in the United States. What opportunity does the Biden-Harris Administration and particularly Harris, in this current role have to create an empathetic approach to immigration?
Ariel: Well, there is a growing opportunity where I think we have to acknowledge that we're in a movement or in a current moment right now that really provides some opportunity across the region to change the dynamic and the messaging and how we do regional migration systems. I think he has start not only with focusing at the enforcement or managing control levels in the region, which I think has been the key focus, as well as investing in the region, which is now the newer strategy to look at the root cause of migration, but also to be more empathetic by offering an increasing rebuilding humanitarian protection systems across the region and creating temporary legal pathways.
That's the one key issue that gets left out. When we talk about messaging for migrants, it's important not only to say, "Don't come right now, the border is closed," but say also, "Don't come right now, we are beginning to build the systems so this mechanism is for you to come legally in the future." That type of empathetic and more comprehensive look I think will go a long ways in the region to try to understand not only how the United States returns or removes migrants to these countries, but what he can do to actually make sure that they come in a more safe and orderly way.
Tanzina: Eugene, I'm wondering whether there's political risk here for Harris in becoming the face of the White House's response to the humanitarian crisis at the southern border?
Eugene: I think there is. This is such a large issue and it's one that has-- The word that I keep hearing from people is a boondoggle, that over the last decade or so it's only gotten worse on Capitol Hill and in the White House of the prior administrations. There's not been a lot done to actually fix it, we haven't overhauled our immigration plans in this country and policies for a very long time, but I think the opportunity for her is that any change from the status quo is going to be seen as a huge win.
It's also important to remember that the "surge," or the flow of migrants that we're seeing right now is seasonal and when you talk to immigration advocates, they point to the fact that-- They laugh about it, but like the sun comes out, and people go outside and that's how we think about it here. That's the same way because people can make this long and terrible trek and whether that's more favorable than winter. That's an opportunity for her as well because it's not going to be like this immigrant advocates say, in six months, or seven, or eight months.
It won't be as tough for her, but I do think there's risk because Republicans especially are going to try to tie her role in dealing with these northern triangle countries and Mexico and doing the diplomatic work, working on the long term causes of these migration trends with what's happening at the border. How the Biden Administration and Kamala Harris are able to differentiate her from that issue is going to be key to how the media covers it honestly.
Tanzina: Ariel, when we think about-- We mentioned a little bit about what President Biden has done so far in terms of trying to undo many of the immigration policies set forth by President Trump, are you satisfied so far with what the rollbacks of some of those policies have been and when it comes to this specific issue with what we're seeing happening, the humanitarian crisis unfolding at the border, are you satisfied so far with how it's being handled?
Ariel: Well, look, I think that President Biden, certainly, here is in a conundrum trying to manage a situation that has been increasingly more difficult at the US-Mexico border, while at the same time trying to implement different policies in the interior. I think those two things are really well connected actually. At the border, I think, while we may know that the numbers haven't or are still-- The rising could fall in the future, what the United States really needs and actually the region really needs is to establish a system that is flexible and adaptable to the changes and flows and is not reactive, but proactive.
That's something that we haven't really been seen yet at the border, I have not had enough clarity yet from the president what that is going to look like. I expect that Vice President Harris will be able to at some point make a more concerted effort there. Again, it's not only thinking about what's going to happen at the border but also what's ahead of us in the future. Being more proactive not only includes trying to understand how to build capacity to process and allow vulnerable immigrants, for example, in this case, minor children, but others as well.
It also takes into account making sure that we have an effective system that starts by looking at what could be happening in the future. At this moment, we have Central American migration being the lead here, but there's also signs that there could be growing migration from other parts of the world that we need to take a lead here and be proactive on. If we can do that, I think in the US-Mexico border and work with our partners in the region, we'll be better set up for any future migration changes.
Tanzina: Eugene, taking all of that into account what Ariel just laid out, is there an appetite in Congress for substantial immigration reform. Today on the show, we're talking about two things that constantly seem to get held up in Congress and that's gun reform and immigration reform. What's the likelihood of some real substantive change coming out of this administration and Congress?
Eugene: In Congress specifically it's hard to see because you have two parties that are so opposite on how they think about immigration. It used to be there was this gang of eight or whatever that was when they were getting together and talking about immigration and immigration reform, but you have four years of Republicans having such harsh immigration rhetoric and policies. It's hard to see how they find a middle ground with Democrats who are on the opposite end of that. In this country, where everything is as tense as it is, and the margins in Congress as tight as there are 50-50 in the Senate, it's hard to see anything move past especially if the filibuster is intact in the Senate.
Tanzina: Last question for you, Eugene, the press has been left out and not given access to many of the facilities that are holding unaccompanied minors, do we expect that to change? We've got less than a minute to go.
Eugene: President Biden said that would change on Thursday in his first press conference. That's something that we've been demanding. NBC News was allowed to go in as the pool and share a video with everyone else was a nicer facility. Aspirational is how Jen Psaki put it in a press briefing earlier this week and so that's not what we want to see. We want to see where the children are being kept and we want to see what those look like. President Biden has promised that-- He didn't say when, but he also said, "I want to formulate some plans first." It's like cleaning up your house before people come in kind of deal, is how I read that.
Tanzina: Eugene Daniels is White House correspondent for Politico and Playbook co-author, and Ariel Ruiz Soto is policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute. Eugene, Ariel, thanks to you both for joining us today.
Ariel: Thank you.
Eugine: Thanks so much.
Tanzina: Okay, folks, another good week and we made it through. We appreciate you taking any part of your day and spending it with us. If you want to find us on Twitter, I'm @tanzinavega and this show is @thetakeaway. Let us know how you're feeling and what your thoughts are about the show. Want to give a shout-out to the incredible people who make this show. Let me tell you who they are.
Vince Fairchild is our broadcast engineer and board operator. Jay Cowit is our sound designer and director. Polly Irungu is our digital editor. Our line producer is Jackie Martin. Our producers are Jose Olivarez, Ethan Oberman, Meg Dalton, Patricia Jacob, and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Amber Hall is our senior producer David Gebel is our executive assistant and Lee Hill is our executive producer. Thanks so much for being a part of our show, I'm Tanzina Vega. This is the takeaway and we'll see you next week.
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