WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday, Latino Rebels asked Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) for an update on immigration reform and her view on the planned “Day Without Immigrants” protest on February 14.
The following is a transcript of the exchange —edited for length and clarity— with the two-term Congresswoman representing parts of the Bronx and Queens.
Latino Rebels: So, a couple of quick questions about immigration. There was a New Yorker profile by Jonathan Blitzer last week that basically pointed at Ron Klain as the person who’s keeping some of Trump’s harsh immigration policies in place. Have you had any conversations with Ron Klain about immigration?
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: I have, but it’s been a minute, I believe. Early last year, when the administration was first transitioning in from Trump, we had some conversations about immigration. But I wasn’t aware of that dynamic.
LR: They’re just saying that basically they’re keeping in place MPP (the Migrant Protection Protocols, commonly known as “Remain in Mexico“). There have been a lot of Latina staffers who have actually quit the White House over this issue. And one of them, who is now chief counsel to Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), basically did a whole profile in the New Yorker on it.
AOC: The thing is that, regardless of where this bottleneck is happening, at the end of the day, the Biden administration has chosen to advance and to continue absolutely unacceptable and inhumane immigration policies. And when you pair that with the lack of movement of legislation in Washington, you’re really mounting up to a big question (from) the Latino and just immigrant communities writ large (to) the Biden administration: where’s the beef? How are you different (than Trump)? And there are some important ways (in which the administration is different), but it needs to be a lot more substantive. And I think he still has yet to deliver.
LR: Is there any way that Congress should be working with the administration toward those ends? If you ask 20 senators right now about immigrant relief, you get 15 different answers.
AOC: Yeah, that’s the problem, isn’t it? That’s why it is very important for the administration to lean on their executive authority as much as possible as they work with Congress on the solution. Because we know that, as you mentioned, getting 20 senators in this political environment to agree on a damn thing is pretty difficult, but people are in crisis now. And MPP—this was a creation of the Trump administration. And it was a disaster when it was rolled out, and the idea of preserving it is unacceptable. The White House needs to ask itself: how are we going to keep the promises? How is the President going to keep his promises?
LR: So what at this point should be the Democratic Party’s message to immigrants who are getting anxious about inaction?
AOC: Well, I mean, that’s the thing—it’s not about a message. It’s about action. You can’t send us out to message on something that isn’t happening. We’re not going to spin this—I’m not going to spin this for people. It’s not about what message we are going to send. It’s about what actions are we going to commit to that goal. And that I think will make a lot of headway.
LR: So there’s a “Day Without Immigrants” strike being planned for Valentine’s Day, the idea being that immigrants are central to what Valentine’s Day is as a market in this country. Is that something you support?
AOC: Hell, yeah. Strikes, general strikes—whatever it takes for people to realize the value of immigrant labor. I mean, you take a date to a nice restaurant, who do you think is making that food? Who do you think are the hands that feed us? And so I support any sort of action or efforts that our immigrant community and those who stand in solidarity with them are committing to to highlight the necessity that immigrants have in our system.
Pablo Manríquez is the Washington correspondent for Latino Rebels. Twitter: @PabloReports