News Brief: Mexico Border Policy, Abortion Poll, Car Emissions Standards

Originally published on June 7, 2019 8:14 am
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NOEL KING, HOST:

Mexico and the U.S. have made some progress on immigration talks, with Mexico promising to get tougher on border enforcement.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Right. So the question is whether that's going to be enough to stop a U.S.-Mexico trade war from beginning on Monday, which is when the White House says a new 5% tariff on Mexican goods is still set to take effect. This of course will happen unless Mexico does more to address the growing number of migrants crossing through Mexico into the U.S. across the southern border. Here's Vice President Mike Pence speaking yesterday.

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VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: The tariffs are going to be imposed on Monday. We've made that very clear to the Mexican delegation. Our hope is that Mexico will respond.

MARTIN: Part of Mexico's response did come late yesterday. Mexico's foreign minister said his country will send 6,000 of its National Guard troops to its border with Guatemala.

KING: NPR's Carrie Kahn has been covering this from along the U.S.-Mexico border. Good morning, Carrie.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Good morning.

KING: All right. So this is definitely not the end of talks between the White House and the Mexican delegation. But the big news from late yesterday is that Mexico plans to deploy its National Guard to its border with Guatemala. How big a deal is this for the Mexican National Guard?

KAHN: It's a big deal since the National Guard was just recently created and improved by the Mexican Congress. It's not even really up and running. The head of public security here in Mexico has said he wants as many as 60,000 troops in that Guard when it's fully operational but estimates that it won't even take place until the end of 2021. So it's unclear where these troops are going to come from, especially in the short term.

And then there's also that Mexico's president campaigned heavily on bringing down Mexico's record-high murder rate. He also promised to tackle organized crime and drug traffickers, not to mention his latest fight since taking office is stopping Mexico's pervasive gas thieves. All of this would require significant resources from this National Guard he created. Stopping migrants at the southern border was not a top priority for the new president, and it's not clear at all where he's going to get the manpower to stage that many troops on the border. And more importantly, which fight is he going to take troops away from in order to send them to the border?

KING: Well, all a sign that Mexican officials were pretty shaken up by the threat of tariffs from the Trump administration. I know that you've been out talking to regular old people along the U.S.-Mexico border about what they think of the tariff threat. What are they telling you?

KAHN: Well, I've been talking with U.S. firms here in Mexico. And I've also - I was also curious to see what farmers here at the border were thinking just because a lot of the farmers now at the border are U.S. farmers that used to farmer in the southernmost spots of California and Arizona but in recent years moved across the border, where labor is more reliable and cheaper and so's water. They are not happy about President Trump, who's now going to tax them for bringing food into the U.S. they say that was getting too expensive to grow in the U.S.

And here - let - here's a manager of a green onion field, Sergio Garcia (ph), who is farming just south of the border of Yuma, Ariz. He says people are concerned.

SERGIO GARCIA: We're all worried because it's going to affect everybody. It is going to affect them. It's going to affect the - all the companies.

KAHN: He's just - he's really worried about providing these year-round jobs. And he says if farmers can't keep providing jobs, there's a very good chance these workers will just join Central American migrants and try and cross the border also in search of work.

KING: So if Mexico does change its immigration policies, as the Trump administration wants, the likely result is that there's just going to be more asylum seekers coming into and staying there in Mexico. Does Mexico have the resources for that?

KAHN: Just quickly, it's going to be tough. Mexico has very limited resources. And this new government has cut its budgets for the immigration and refugee programs under the president's new austerity program. So it's going to be tough to take even more asylum seekers.

KING: NPR's Carrie Kahn. Thanks, Carrie.

KAHN: You're welcome.

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KING: OK. It's become pretty clear that abortion is going to be an issue, a very divisive issue, in the 2020 presidential race.

MARTIN: Yeah. We're already seeing it shape the 2020 Democratic primary. Yesterday, former Vice President Joe Biden announced that he has changed his mind about a law involving federal funds for abortion. This comes after nine states have passed these new restrictions or just outright bans on abortions this year. None of them have actually been enacted, but this has all set the stage for a possible challenge to Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court. This is this - the federal law that guarantees a woman's right to an abortion.

And today, we've got this new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll that gives us a good sense of how Americans are feeling about this debate right now.

KING: NPR's lead political editor Domenico Montanaro has been digging into the poll and the numbers there. Hi, Domenico.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hi there.

KING: So what does this poll show? What are the headlines?

MONTANARO: Well, the poll's showing that even though the debate around abortion takes place around these very bright lines or with these bright lines around it, it's really not an either/or argument for a lot of Americans. There are broad agreements around, for example, the fact that most people don't want Roe v. Wade overturned. Our poll found that three-quarters of people said that they want it upheld in some fashion.

I mean, within that, there's a lot of nuance. I mean, some people want it upheld as it is. Some people want it upheld and expanded. Some people want it upheld but with more restrictions. And, in fact, in a separate question that we asked from talking about Roe v. Wade, we gave people some choices about what comes closest to their view of abortion. What we found was broad agreement that people want abortion legal in the first three months, in cases of rape and incest and when the health of the woman is at risk.

KING: All right. So let's dig into where people fall as either supporters or opponents of abortion rights. What did those numbers show?

MONTANARO: Well, first of all, let me just say that in writing most of our stories or talking about it on air, NPR's standard is usually to use more neutral terminology. We talk about abortion rights supporters and opponents, and we don't usually get into the language that the advocates on either side use. But we wanted to get at how people see themselves in this debate either as, quote, "pro-choice" or, quote, "pro-life." And in this poll, 57% said that they call themselves pro-choice. Thirty-five percent said pro-life.

Now, that 57% number is the highest since 2012. But it's a pretty flexible number. I just want to make sure people understand that. Just a few months ago, it was 47 apiece. So the pollsters attribute that to the debate that's being had and dominated by things like the very restrictive Alabama law that bans abortion completely except in cases when the woman's health is at risk.

KING: That's really interesting. So people's minds shift, and they shift quickly. In light of that, what does this poll suggest about how people view that Alabama law and these other restrictive laws like it?

MONTANARO: Well, we asked a series of questions about what people support and oppose. And there's a whole lot more that people should dig into in our story online about that. But we purposely didn't say which state various proposals came from. And what we found was, though, that people are simply not in favor of going as far as Alabama, which, as I noted, you know, bans abortion except in cases where the life or health of the woman is at risk.

KING: Domenico, last up, Joe Biden making some changes to where he comes down on abortion-related law. What's going on there?

MONTANARO: Well, the Democratic primary is what happened, (laughter) you know.

KING: Yeah (laughter).

MONTANARO: Biden had been a longtime supporter of what's known as the Hyde Amendment. Even though he's a supporter of keeping abortion legal and available, he's also supported Hyde, which bars most federal funding for abortions. Just a couple days ago, he reaffirmed his support of it. But he changed course. And last night in Atlanta, he told a crowd this.

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JOE BIDEN: If I believe health care is right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone's zip code.

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MONTANARO: So that came after a lot of criticism from the Democratic field of candidates. They argue that because the Hyde Amendment affects Medicaid, it disproportionately hurts poorer women and women of color. And remember, it also comes just a few weeks before that first Democratic presidential primary debate.

KING: Domenico Montanaro, thanks so much.

MONTANARO: You're so welcome.

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KING: All right. The White House and the state of California are locked in a fight about car emissions.

MARTIN: And now 17 automakers are calling for a truce. They want the two sides to commit to a compromise on emissions standards. The automakers proposal offers a middle ground between existing Obama-era standards and the Trump administration's announced rollbacks.

KING: NPR's Camila Domonoske is in studio this morning. Hi, Camila.

CAMILA DOMONOSKE, BYLINE: Hi, Noel.

KING: All right. So what are the automakers proposing in this bid to get a truce?

DOMONOSKE: Right. So during the Obama administration, these regulations were tightened to get more ambitious over time. So every year, basically, on average, cars would have to get more fuel-efficient. And the Trump administration is working to roll that back and freeze standards in place so they don't get stricter over time.

The state of California, which has an unusual amount of power for a state in this particular debate, is opposed to that and backs the original standards. So what the carmakers are saying is that there's a clear compromise here. You could land somewhere in the middle with a policy that you guys actually can both live with - please (laughter).

KING: Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. There is a lot at stake here for the car companies, right? Explain that.

DOMONOSKE: Yeah. The auto industry really wants to avoid having two separate standards, which is a huge headache if you're trying to produce cars for an entire country. They also want to avoid having a drawn-out legal battle that creates uncertainty for them.

It's really interesting. They frame why they want this so badly differently in their letters to President Trump and to the governor of California. To the White House, they say American jobs are on the line, that this will affect our bottom line and increase the cost of cars if we have to deal with this - the result of this feud. To the state of California, they emphasize that having one standard across the entire country would be more effective at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

KING: OK. So automakers know their audience. What have the responses been from the Trump administration and from the state of California?

DOMONOSKE: The White House says that the - in negotiations with California, which broke down months ago...

KING: OK.

DOMONOSKE: ...California did not come up with an alternative that, to the White House's thinking, was workable and that the White House is going to move ahead with its rules. Meanwhile, California says they are going to lead the coalition to stop those new rules from going into effect, setting up the stage for protracted legal battles.

KING: Which car companies presumably do not want. Explain why.

DOMONOSKE: Right. So the automakers actually didn't love the Obama-era standards, necessarily. They'd asked for a softening of the standards. They wanted something less ambitious. But there's a big difference between less ambitious regulations and completely unclear regulations. When something goes to court, you're waiting to hear what a judge says to find out what the policy is that governs your industry. It takes five years to bring a new car to market. So these automakers are planning things years in advance, which they can't do if they don't know what the regulations will be.

KING: So again, big car companies, could mean a lot for their bottom line. NPR's Camila Domonoske, thanks so much for following this one.

DOMONOSKE: Yeah. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF NOMAK'S "FORCE FOR TRUTH") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.