Representatives are expected to vote on two Republican sponsored immigration bills this week. One would cut legal immigration and give temporary status to young people brought to the United States illegally as children. The other would give “Dreamers” greater legal protections and a more permanent legal status, but it would also cut legal immigration and set aside billions of dollars to fund a border wall. United States Sen. Cory Booker joined Correspondent Michael Hill.
Hill: We’ve heard no major legislative action can happen in Congress until immigration gets fixed and until the president, more or less, gets what he wants — four pillars, four demands. If that is the case, what are you expecting, especially on immigration?
Booker: Well, let’s remember that the president obviously controls the White House and you have two houses of Congress controlled by Republicans. Paul Ryan could pass a bill tomorrow not even needing one vote from Democrats, and so for them to have inaction right now is outrageous. And especially at a time where at our border, our values as Americans are being assaulted. Literally, the dignity of our country is under attack. It’s not just the dignity of the people. Who we say we are as a country, and you hear conservative voices, progressive voices coming out and speaking out against this, is under attack. This is a shameful moment in American history where the country that stands for certain values is now assaulting those values through the dignity and the humanity of people at the border. The opposite of justice isn’t just injustice, it’s inaction, it’s indifference, it’s apathy. The inaction of this Congress and this president is unacceptable to me.
Hill: This administration saying a way to deter this illegal immigration, as it calls it, is to separate children from their parents, from their families. They’re not only doing that, but they’re also quoting the kind of scripture that was used in the 1840s and 1850s to enslave folks who were brought from Africa.
Booker: Exactly, so here we have a time where Trump’s biggest evangelical supporters are saying to him what he’s doing is irreligious. You have the biggest catholic leader in our country saying what he’s doing is against the precepts of the bible. This is a moral vandalism like I’ve never seen before, in my short lifetime, being done by the government. And so everybody, you had Martin Luther King and others talk about unjust actions by government and the moral obligation, King’s letters from the Birmingham jail were all about the moral obligation we have as bystanders, not to be bystanders but upstanders. So this is a time that if you were doing nothing about this problem, a small action like calling your House member, calling your senator and just expressing your ire. Posting on social media that I may be a Republican, I may be a Democrat, it doesn’t matter. This is about partisanship. This is about patriotism, loyalty to the ideals of our country, which are being violated right now.
Hill: Senator, is this president listening, though? Is this Congress listening?
Booker: Well, clearly he is because he’s squirming now and you see him creating lies like this is the Democrat’s fault when you are the one that made the decision to act and interpret the law in this way. That you are the one that controls the House and the Senate, so we see him trying to react and defend himself. But when you see former first ladies, or even his own wife, coming out and saying some statements that cast a shadow over this, it demonstrates that this man is so out of touch with the humanity and the dignity of our country and he’s so assaulting it. I want people, which we’ve done before, we’ve come together as a country to stop the craven taking away of health care from tens of thousands of Americans. We’ve done it before. This is the time that if you are an American that believes in our values, that puts your hand over your heart and pledges an allegiance to liberty and justice for all, that believes in a nation that is against cruel and unusual punishment, this is your moment. This is your moral moment to say something, to do something, to speak up, to not be silent.
Hill: Senator, you know New Jersey and other states have done this SALT workaround with what the Trump administration has done. You, Sen. Menendez, Congressman Pallone are working against that now to try and make sure that places like New Jersey can go ahead with these laws that they have for this workaround. But the IRS is threatening to block those workarounds. What’s being done?
Booker: New Jersey pays too much taxes already, and what Donald Trump in this tax bill did, and this is why most Republican Congresspeople voted against it, is he said, well New Jerseyans are now going to pay even more taxes. Thousands of dollars of increases in taxes for working New Jerseyans who own their homes, who have big state obligations. What we’re trying to say is let’s do what other states have done from Georgia to Kentucky, more than two dozen states have had this in place for a long time. We’re going to join them and give a way to relieve property taxes for our state. I’m proud of my governor for saying we’re paying too much taxes, people here in our state shouldn’t have to pay more to pay for a Republican tax bill which was really giving corporations, who are already at an 85-year high in profits, giving them more of a tax break. The cost, who’s paying for it? New Jerseyans. So I’m happy about this workaround and I’m going to stand with Sen. Menendez right now, and Malcolm X said, ‘by any means necessary,’ he and I are going to fight like anything to protect our taxpayers from suffering as a result of this Republican tax bill that targeted high tax paying states like ours.
Hill: Senator, you have been in high demand this graduation season, all over the place I’ve seen you, but also in some of the political campaigns. I’m curious as to what you’re learning about this group of Democratic candidates, what you’re learning about this Democratic electorate, and what Americans are thinking right now in this strange, this crazy time.
Booker: First of all, you have more women candidates around the country, thousands more than we’ve ever seen. We’ve seen folks who often weren’t involved in overtly political action getting involved.
Hill: Why do you think they are?
Booker: I think they are because of a response to seeing their country go in a dramatic direction. And this doesn’t have to do about conservative Republicans, I see conservative Democrats, more progressive Democrats all stepping forward in our big tent party and saying enough is enough. And this activism is a good thing. But the worst thing I see happening in our country is low voter turnouts, people that don’t care enough about our democracy in a nation where as recently as in 1950s and 60s people were dying for the right to vote. People are suddenly realizing that democracy is not a spectator sport, it’s a full contact, participatory endeavor. If I sit this out, I’m actually giving countenance, I’m giving a license to all the bad things that are happening, I need to step up. And so we see more people stepping up to be candidates and more voters, who aren’t normally voting, realizing, wait a minute, if I don’t vote, then my voice will not be heard on everything from common sense gun safety laws to even some of the most fundamental rights of Americans being stripped away from them, like a woman’s ability to make her own health care decisions.