Immigration Reform Can't Wait with Denea Joseph | Crooked Media
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September 21, 2021
What A Day
Immigration Reform Can't Wait with Denea Joseph

In This Episode

  • The Senate’s parliamentarian said that Democrats could not use the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill to create a pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented people in the U.S. At the same time, over 14,000 Haitian migrants began to arrive at the Texas-Mexico border in recent days in order to seek asylum. Several hundreds of them have been deported back to Haiti, using a pandemic-related policy adopted by the Trump administration. Denea Joseph, an undocumented DACA recipient and national immigrant rights activist, joins us to discuss the latest immigration news.
  • And in headlines: the Biden administration eases travel restrictions on fully vaccinated foreign nationals flying to the U.S., the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine provokes a strong immune response in children 5 to 11 years old, and Russia recently held a national election and Putin is still the President.
  • Show Notes: 

    Al Jazeera: “Border Patrol Use Whips And Horses To Chase Asylum Seekers” –






Gideon Resnick: It is Tuesday, September 21st. I’m Gideon Resnick.


Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice, and this is What A Day, where we are anxiously guzzling maple syrup as we await the result of Canada’s election.


Gideon Resnick: I had to tap all of this myself, and I just want to say it was tough. It was challenging.


Josie Duffy Rice: You’re welcome, Canada.


Gideon Resnick: On today’s show, President Biden lifts a travel ban so that fully-vaccinated foreign nationals can enter the U.S. Plus, Russia recently held a national election and you probably won’t be too surprised at whose party won.


Josie Duffy Rice: Truly, truly shocking. But first, in a blow to immigrant rights activists, Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, the, quote “impartial referee” of the Senate and its rules, said on Sunday that Democrats could not use the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill to create a pathway to citizenship. Millions of undocumented people living in America had been waiting on something, really anything, that would have moved the needle on immigration reform since so little has changed in years.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and at the same time, as we talked about yesterday, over 14,000 Haitian migrants began to arrive at the Texas-Mexico border in recent days in order to seek asylum from the U.S. Some of them had fled the country following a devastating earthquake and the recent assassination of the country’s president. However, the US has already begun to clear out where they have taken shelter. As of last night, the AP reported that more than 6,000 Haitians and other migrants had been removed. Several hundreds of them at least, have been deported back to Haiti using a pandemic-related policy adopted by the Trump administration, with officials saying that the size and pace of flights is set to increase. And there’s at least one well-documented, disturbing instance of Border Patrol behavior. Al-Jazeera posted a video yesterday showing Border Patrol officers on horseback verbally abusing some of those migrants.


[voice] Hey! You use your women? This is why your country’s [bleep], because you use your women for this.


Gideon Resnick: Really ugly.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, you got to know that if you are using immigration policy that was adopted by the Trump administration, you might be on the wrong path.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and at one point in this video, it appears as if an officer swings at a migrant with what looks like a strap that is connected to the bridle of his horse. That’s how The Washington Post put it. We’ll link to that video in our show notes. And yesterday, the White House and the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee voiced concern over some of the reports that were emerging, and called the circulating pictures, quote unquote, “horrific.”


Josie Duffy Rice: And they are horrific, right, it’s a really, really kind of shocking thing to see. And with so much going on with immigration, we wanted to hear what one activist herself thinks. Denea Joseph is an undocumented DACA recipient and a national immigrant rights activist. Welcome to What A Day.


Denea Joseph: Thank you for having me.


Josie Duffy Rice: So I know that this week has just been, I’m sure, very emotional and disappointing in a lot of different ways. What is your reaction to the news that once again DACA protections won’t be passed in Congress?


Denea Joseph: I would say that I’m disappointed, but not defeated. I’m disappointed by the fact that the Senate parliamentarian thought that for the first time in 35 years that this shouldn’t be something that’s included in the reconciliation package. However, I’m not defeated, considering the fact that she actually isn’t a rule maker. She isn’t a legislator, right? She is an unelected advisor to the Senate, meaning that the buck does not stop with her. This is where we need bold action from the Democratic Party, like Chuck Schumer, who could actually say, you know what, let’s actually replace you—or from the president of the Senate being Vice President, Kamala Harris, to say that I’d actually like to overrule that decision—considering the fact that the vast majority of the American population actually supports a pathway forward of citizenship for the 11.5 million undocumented people in this country.


Josie Duffy Rice: AS someone, though, who has personal experience as well as understanding the impact that has on the country writ large, this actually affects you directly. So how has it been for you personally?


Denea Joseph: Well, first and foremost, it’s been hard for me for the past 20 years that I have been undocumented, right?


Josie Duffy Rice: Right, right.


Gideon Resnick: As an undocumented and Black woman from Belize, Central America. These conversations aren’t had nearly enough, where we talk about what’s happening with immigration, who’s directly impacted by this issue. And so it’s difficult when you hear people say that it’s not right now, but I’ve been hearing not right now for 20 years. So it’s frustrating. It makes you feel defeated at times. But at the same time, it makes me that much more defiant, to want to push harder for us to get something concrete.


Gideon Resnick: And you’re sort of alluding to this, but we heard this time that the reasoning is based on this parliamentarian’s decision, as you said. But does it feel as though people are constantly passing the buck here?


Denea Joseph: Absolutely. You’re right about that, where the responsibility and who should be held accountable consistently changes. One thing that we saw come out of the Trump administration—and I can’t even believe that I’m saying one thing, one good thing that came out—is the fact that members of the Republican Party were defiant in when they wanted something to get done.


Gideon Resnick: Right.


Denea Joseph: Meaning that they could care less about bipartisanship, that they just worked to complete whatever the priorities of their party was.


Gideon Resnick: Right.


Denea Joseph: And I think as members of the Democratic Party, they need to do the absolute same thing. This is something, comprehensive immigration reform or at least a pathway forward, that would benefit this nation and contribute to the socioeconomic status of this country. It is positive. Why not fight for it? Why not be bold about this one thing, considering that it’s positive and we saw the other party do way more for far worse for this country?


Josie Duffy Rice: Today, and just these past few days, we’ve seen this situation with Haitian immigrants, just the latest in a string of deeply tragic, deeply callous, right, behavior towards migrants trying to seek refuge in the United States. So when you see those images that are being discussed today and those videos of those officers on horseback holding what looked like whips, how does it make you rethink your own sort of outlook on the current situation in immigration, or does it not really make you rethink it at all?


Denea Joseph: Today, as I was reading and relooking at those images, I just could not believe that this is what’s happening under this current administration. The idea was that we would see a clear difference in this nation’s regard for immigrants than we saw in the previous administration. So the fact that the same things are happening is disappointing, and that means that this administration actually needs to step up to do better, to hold itself accountable, and looking at the ways in which they’re disproportionately impacting members of the immigrant community in the same way that they said they wanted the previous administration to stop.


Gideon Resnick: We’re about eight months into President Biden’s first term in office. In addition to everything else that we have talked about, just yesterday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the White House will raise the cap on admissions of refugees to 125,000 a year starting October 1st. Biden had pledged to raise that cap during his campaign, and he had already once earlier this year. We’ve kind of addressed this, but at this point, what is your assessment of how Biden has done on immigration overall?


Denea Joseph: I think the will is there, but the resistance is lacking, in that you should not be so concerned about what the naysayers are saying and doing in order to stop the very progressive and necessary work that you’re doing. You should be more focused on individuals like myself who are one of 11.5 million undocumented people who are susceptible to detention and deportation on a daily basis. That should be the concern, right? And so that resistance needs to be there. That’s why I love the work of people like Cori Bush, who is a legislator, but she’s also an activist. She’s also an organizer, who recognizes, just like Dr. King did, right, that a lot of the work that he was doing was not favorable at that time. But it’s not about favorability. People will eventually get the right idea decades later but should we wait for them to catch up or should we be that bold change that we would like to see in the world? And I think it’s the latter, that we should be the bold change and think less about what the naysayers feel or what they think we should be doing.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, I think something that you’re saying is making me a, want to acknowledge all the work that immigration activism has contributed and driven, but I also think so much of the conversation around immigration is driven in moments of crisis and covered in moments of crisis, right? It is the moment of family separation. It is the moment of crossing the border. It is the caravan, right? Versus a real holistic conversation about what are the ways in which we can try to rectify and help, and also allow these people to help us by entering the country. So why do you think that is that immigration is really only covered in the context of crisis?


Denea Joseph: I think something that I’ve learned in communications is about what people consider to be sexy, right? What’s that sexy issue that people are drawn to and attracted to? And unfortunately, we live in a time, an era where people tend to thrive off of tragedy. And unfortunately, in the immigrant rights movement, tragedy and trauma is taking place daily, whether or not the media is picking it up and talking about it. Case in point, members of the undocumented and Black community who have been disproportionately impacted by this nation’s immigration system since the 1980s—in fact, the U.S. detention system, as we know it, was built on the backs of Haitian people during 1974 and 1980, where we saw a Caribbean crisis take place, where people were fleeing. And so because of that narrative of what’s a sexy issue, what is that most pressing thing at that time. And also the fact that we have very short attention spans and because of that, what is going on with immigration, like I said, has been taking place for decades. And so when you see that a community is disproportionately impacted by issues on a daily basis, the attention is not going to be lent meanwhile, so many other things are taking place every day in our nation. But I think what we do need to look to is the fact that this actually isn’t new, and it would be a disservice to every Haitian immigrant and people coming from the African continent to say that this border crisis just began. It did not. Haitian immigrants have been fleeing the country since 2010, since the earthquake and the de-stabilization that took place then. In fact, there’s members of the Haitian community who are sheltering in place in Mexico with no form of support, if not for the help of the Mexican people who are giving them food. And they were being left unhoused on the streets of Mexico for at least a decade. So this isn’t new. And I think we definitely need to start to look at who we consider to be important, because for a long time, Haitian people who are erased, Black people who are erased in the immigrant rights movement and the narratives around immigration—this has been taking place for a long time, it’s just we do not find them important enough to cover our stories.


Gideon Resnick: Well, thank you so much for taking so much generous time today and giving us so much to think about and consider here. Denea Joseph is an undocumented recipient and national immigrant rights activist. Thank you again. We always appreciate you joining.


Denea Joseph: Thank you so much.


Gideon Resnick: And that is the latest for now. We’re going to be back after some ads.


[ad break]


Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


Gideon Resnick: Starting in early November, the Biden administration is going to ease travel restrictions on fully-vaccinated foreign nationals that are flying to the US. President Biden’s COVID-19 response coordinator, Jeffrey Zients, made the announcement yesterday. Travelers that are coming from 33 countries, including China, India, Brazil and most of Europe will be allowed to enter if they show proof of vaccination and if they have tested negative for the virus within three days of their flight. Now, personally, I can only host one event, and that privilege is reserved at this point for Britain’s own Paddington Bear. Paddington, we can continue this conversation in the DMs, but the spot is yours, my friend. Travelers will also have to provide personal information such as a phone number and email address to allow for contact tracing. As of now, this does not apply to ground travel from Canada or Mexico. Non-essential travel from those countries is barred through October 21st. And the new Biden policy will replace a patchwork of travel bans that the Trump administration implemented in January of 2020—we have been in this for a long time.


Josie Duffy Rice: Truly.


Gideon Resnick: The decision came on the eve of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit to the White House, where Johnson was expected to press Biden on lifting the ban.


Josie Duffy Rice: I’m interested in whether or not Paddington actually has opposable thumbs and can actually DM you. I don’t feel like he can really DM.


Gideon Resnick: I can’t answer for him, so . . . .


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, we’ll have to see what happens. Also in COVID News, the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine has been shown to provoke a strong immune response in children aged five to 11 years old. If you’re not familiar with science speak, that is a good thing. Pfizer announced its findings yesterday. The company plans to submit its data to the FDA by the end of the month so it can get emergency use authorization for the vaccine to be used on this age group. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids now account for more than one in five new cases of COVID-19, and the Delta variant has sent more children to the hospital in the ICU in recent weeks than at any other time during the pandemic. If the FDA regulatory review goes smoothly, millions of elementary school children may have the opportunity to get inoculated by November.


Gideon Resnick: That is great.


Josie Duffy Rice: Truly.


Gideon Resnick: Stock markets were hit hard yesterday as a huge Chinese property conglomerate faces a potential default on its debt. China Evergrande Group was once a financial powerhouse in China’s economy when the country leaned on the property market for growth. Now the company faces over $300 billion in debt and has seen its shares lose over 80% of their value this year.


Josie Duffy Rice: Unreal.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, analysts now say that a default is looking likely, maybe even as soon as within the month. And that could have huge consequences for China’s stock markets and ours. Already, just the potential threat of a default caused major panic from investors translating to substantial declines in the Dow Jones. Thankfully, my portfolio remains stable since my money is heavily invested in an asset called “the hollow tree out by the creek.” Please delete that from this recording before this goes live. Thank you. I appreciate it.


Josie Duffy Rice: You never win, but you never lose when you keep your money in a hollow tree, you know?


Gideon Resnick: That’s what they say.


Gideon Resnick: That’s what they say. Against no odds, at all, Russia’s ruling party, United Russia, will retain a two-thirds majority in the country’s parliament following elections last weekend. This result cemented the already cemented, very cemented, power of President Vladimir Putin, and it has widely been decried as fraudulent. The Kremlin encouraged voters in six regions of the country to cast ballots online this year. And while early results showed candidates from opposition parties gaining on Kremlin-backed candidates once online voters were tallied up, those gains were erased. Very curious. Add in reports of ballot stuffing, plus the fact that many of the country’s most prominent Putin critics have been jailed, exiled, or banned from running for office at all, and you really do start to wonder if the things that people say about Russian elections being fixed might be true. The country’s Communist Party, which came in second, says they don’t accept the validity of the online results. And I don’t know about you Gideon, but I am just now reaching the point in my 2020 healing process where I’m actually kind of able to root for that sentiment.


Gideon Resnick: Getting there


Josie Duffy Rice: Getting there.


Gideon Resnick: Really getting there.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. It’s a slow process.


Gideon Resnick: And those are the headlines. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, stay away from my hollow money tree, and tell your friends to listen.


Josie Duffy Rice: And if you’re into reading, and not just direct messages from Paddington Bear like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Josie Duffy Rice.


Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.


[together] And send us more maple syrup!


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, if you don’t want me to be sad, that’s what I need. And if you want me to be sad, well, that’s pretty mean.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, we need it now. We need the sugar. We need the rush. It’s going to be that season.


Gideon Resnick: Exactly. What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lance. Sonia Htoon and Jazzi Marine are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.