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Díaz and Gabriel: As Congress fails to strike immigration deal, what's next at southern border

The bipartisan immigration deal that fell apart in Washington last week would have made some major changes to our asylum process and fund the overwhelmed system in ways that many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle supported. But, in the end, Republicans turned against the bill — spurred on by former President Donald Trump — and many on the left also condemned it. 

It was a political saga that has major implications for what happens next on our Southern border — which is still in many ways in crisis.

So, what’s next? For more, The Show spoke with Elvia Díaz, editorial page editor of the Arizona Republic, and columnist Jon Gabriel, who have different takes on what happened.

Full interview

So, Elvia, I want to begin with you. You weren't exactly in support of this bill, I know, but not for the same reasons that many Republicans kind of killed it. Tell us, first of all, your take.

ELVIA DÍAZ: Well, it was a bipartisan bill, which was a legislation which was brokered in part by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema here from Arizona, and I didn't like it because the Democrats essentially gave everything that Republicans asked for. Something that a few years ago, that Democrats would have not even considered when it comes to immigration.

You know, you have the president who promised immigration reform, when he was elected. And now he was essentially saying, I'm going to agree to shut the border down. Those were exactly his words. Essentially shattered the asylum process and a bunch of other things, you know, they would have increased tremendously detention centers. They would have packed them with immigrants. The White House would have carried out mass deportations, which is something that Democrats don't talk about. So overall, he gave the house away. And then, you know, it didn't happen.

But you, in your latest column on this road that, that you thought it was sort of supposed to be that way that Republicans were setting them up essentially.

DÍAZ: Well, yes, you know what I thought that that's it. That's exactly what they, what they wanted to do. They, they asked for something that they believe that the Democrats would have not done it. And then, you know, the Democrats did it. So, yes, my initial column was the Republicans had a trap for the Democrats, for President Biden because clearly a, a whole segment of the voting population is not happy with him.

Now, I mean, even if you didn't happen, now we know what he's capable of what, what he's willing to give away, you know, he's not willing to stand up for his principles, for, to keep his words. So that's why I thought it was a, a setup. But, you know, a lot has happened since then, and now it seems that the Republicans are the ones who set up the trap and fell into it themselves politically.

All right. So Jon, you, I know are on the other side of the political spectrum here. Tell us, first of all your take on, on what conspired here.

JON GABRIEL: Yes. Well, I for one am shocked that the Republicans set themselves up and then failed. Yeah, they are not very good at this legislating thing right now, and it was just strange to try to do these backroom deals. Mitch McConnell, "Meaningless" Schumer and many other people, Sen. Sinema and others and not getting buy in from people on his own side, I was not surprised when they were doing all these long meetings day after day and little leaks were coming out here and there. I kind of knew it was headed this way, even if it had made it through the Senate, we all know how dysfunctional the Republican House is right now since they've been in. The current House speaker, whoever it is this week, if he ever crosses maybe two very angry GOP congressmen or congresswomen, he will be booted.

So the entire system, right now is very messed up, very unstable, and I think they should really focus on smaller fixes rather than these grand bargains, because you just don't have the strength anymore of straight party line voting. All the various legislators in both houses are very quick to want to oppose anything that's even popular if it will get them a slot on Fox News.

So Elvia, let's talk then about what John is starting to bring up there, which is this idea of fixes that could come next. Like there is a lot of political fallout from this, but there are now real problems at the border and in our border communities and for the number of migrants who are arriving every day that have no solution, really. Do you think anything will change? Like is this going to be in a holding pattern at least until after the election?

DÍAZ: It sounds like that's gonna happen. It is most unfortunate. Yes, I mean to begin with, they should have never ever set this to have the immigration, the border security with money for Ukraine and Israel. So what can they do? Well, they can vote on, on the legislation separately for the money, they can vote for border security separately if they want to.

It's not going to happen, because we know that a former President Donald Trump derailed this whole thing because he didn't want anything to be done about the border because he wants to campaign on the issue. He said it himself. It's, it's, it's not, it's not a speculation. So it, it is very unfortunate. The situation is real. The crisis is real. I mean, Biden can certainly do a lot of stuff himself without the Republicans to alleviate the situation here at southern border border. And the Republicans can begin by actually giving money for border security. Bit it's not going to happen.

So, Jon, what do you mean when you're talking about small fixes there that that might go forward? Do you, do you think that those are possible?

GABRIEL: I think they are Rep. Juan Ciscomani from down in Tucson area, he has advanced just a small thing about federal crimes and how we can make small things on the border safer. There's been several very deadly and sad high speed chases mostly in Texas, but I know Arizona has experience with those as well, and he has increased penalties on people who lead those chases at least on our side of the border. And it's something that has gotten a lot of bipartisan support in the house, many Democrats voted for it, and I believe many Arizona Democrats voted for it.

So I think if there's any small issues that can be advanced, I think that would be at least doing something. And there are people working. I will credit Sen. Sinema for trying to do something but, I, I think it's one of these grand strategies as Elvia said, tying it to Ukraine and tying it to Israel. How about just finding small issues that you can get, you know, I don't know, 51% of the people to agree on instead of these grand strategies because, it seems like these omnibus bills always go to the 11th hour and at the last minute, if something looks like it's going to pass, you know, that Trump is going to make a statement against it, and then people on the red side of the ledger will oppose it just overnight.

Elvia, do you think those kinds of small fixes could be possible and, and could make a difference, at least in the, in the interim?

DÍAZ: It can make a huge difference. It's not gonna happen because of our political environment right now. No side is giving the other one an inch and so politically it's so toxic. I mean, Jon was talking, you know, the stuff that can be done but that, that, that would only happen if they were reasonable people in Congress. And they are not, you know, they are at least enough people are crazy to not want to do anything about it and to derail everything. So it's not, it's, it's not gonna happen, not this year. And, and the situation is getting worse at the border.

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Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.