Thomas Roberts | December 18, 2014
>>> as a nation of immigrants, the immigration system we have in the united states right now doesn't reflect our values. that's one of the reasons i acted to lift the shadow of deportation from what we call the dreamers, young people brought to the united states as children, and that's why i'm working with our congress to pass common sense immigration reform this year.
>> so president obama brings his immigration message to students in mexico . giant steps for syria , arming the rebels. and who's to blame for the bangladesh tragedy? those are the hot topics on the minds of today's progressive panel. joining me, ryan grimm from the " washington post ," jamel brewer, specializing in campaigns, elections and public policy . then josh rogan from foreign policy magazine 's the cable. he reports on national security and foreign policy . gentlemen, good to have you here. let's just start out of the gates talking about president obama and immigration. it's very interesting, i think, the optics for a lot of people to see the president cross the border into mexico city to talk about dreamers and what it means to come to this country as children and want to achieve the american dream and how the immigration reform system is broken. explain the optics of why the president feels to send that message from across the border.
>> i think he's trying to build support among latino community for immigration reform and there's a lot of symbolic value in just going down to mexico and making that case. i'm not sure if it will put pressure on republicans who are really sort of the key constituency he has to get past. but as far as building public support among latino community for new immigration bill , i think going to mexico makes complete sense.
>> ryan , what's the biggest obstacle for the president when he waits with the gang of eight? what's marco rubio been saying this week? where's the stalling coming from?
>> the biggest obstacle really is the tea party in the house. the latest obstacle that has been thrown up is lgbt rights . the country has gotten to a place now where it's not really acceptable to say that members of the lgbt community don't have the same rights as everybody else. but now here we are trying to do this immigration bill , kind of a holdover five users ayears ago period where you're saying only straight couples are allowed to be reunited through immigration reform . you know, the other problem he has is that a lot of people are just furious with the status quo. he said that he lifted the shadow of deportation from the dreamers. that's only partially true. that shadow still hangs over all of the dreamers' parents. hundreds are getting deported every day and sitting in detention centers waiting to get deported.
>> meanwhile, the president knew going in that immigration was going to be certainly on his agenda if re-elected. the other things that have popped up like gun reform and certainly issues with syria , although that's been a crisis now for the last two years, has certainly bubbled up to be more of a priority than he thought. especially now that we're getting more information about syria and what it's doing to its own people. take a listen to secretary of defense chuck hagel .
>> arming rebels, that's an option. that's an option. you look and rethink all options. it doesn't mean you do or you will.
>> doesn't mean you do or you will, but it is an option and has been discussed. how publicly does the administration want to be -- or excuse me, josh, over this fact that the situation in syria is bad, but we don't have the evidence needed to prove that they've used chemical weapons in the chain of command necessary to go in without international help, so is the best option then to hope for passive-aggressive approach by giving opposition forces arms?
>> sure. thomas, you framed it exactly correctly. the administration here is weighing the risks of action versus the risks of inaction. up to this point they've concluded that the risks of action are greater than the risks of inaction. now with the chemical weapons piece added in, that doesn't seem to be the case anymore. now they're actually weighing action in a way that they haven't in the last two years. they haven't quite figured out how they're going to do that, when they're going to do that, how they're going to frame it, how they're going to announce it. that's what they're struggling with right now as the syrian people continue to suffer.
>> the syrian people continue to suffer. we've seen refugees fleeing the borders, up to a million people. jordan, the president having met with king abdullah last week about the growing humanitarian crisis . you broke the story earlier this week about what's being done. the humanitarian aid that's going in, obviously this is a small band-aid on a big problem.
>> sure. so the administration after two years started providing help directly to the free syrian army , those are the armed rebels. they started giving them medical kits, started giving them food. they're about to start giving them body armor , night vision goggles , stuff that can help them, but not stuff that can help them win the war. in the end, they're going to have to come down to the decision of whether or not they want to help the free syrian army defeat assad sooner rather than later. that goes counter to their strategy of negotiating a political solution, but let's face it. the political solution doesn't seem to be happening anyway.
>> meanwhile, when we spoke earlier, the syrian people obviously are looking for some type of help and leadership from the u.s. to come in in some type of diplomatic capacity, if not beyond militarily. but there is no markings on the aid that's coming in. the u.s. is not really getting the credit for small amount of aid that's going in.
>> most syrians believe that the u.s. is not helping them at all. that's not totally true but it's a reflection of the fact that the help is not enough and not making a difference for the millions of people who are displaced and spread out all over the region. the diplomatic and political solution goes through russia. so that's another piece that the administration is focused on. that's a really tough piece. but these are a lot of moving pieces, all flying around at once, as the situation gets worse, and this is the jam the obama white house is in.
>> the other big story that's been certainly talked about from the huffington post is the bangladesh tragedy. the garment facility that crumbled because of the way that it was made and the poor care going into it and then this makes us all think and take a double look at what we're wearing, where we're getting things and how it's coming in to the u.s. explain to all of us the bigger -- the connective tissue, that is, that we should be concerned about as americans when we look at that tragedy and realize that 500 people perished just going to work.
>> right. you know, every time something like this happens, this is the worst one that's happened in a very, very long time, but every time there's a fire or a building collapse, the western world and the western brands kind of unite around the idea that okay, we're going to start inspecting these factories in bangladesh better. we're going to make sure that they have better standards. and they put all of the blame on bangladesh , as if they kind of had no idea that this was happening. huffington post spoke to bangladeshi business leaders who finally had enough of that and they fired back at the west and said look, you want better safety conditions, you want better wages, then pay us a little bit more. a bangladeshi sweat shop owner has to run a sweat shop at a certain price because that's what he's getting paid for. we have this, you know, you said what can we do differently. maybe each one of us doesn't need 100 or 150 teeshirts sitting in our attic that we got for free for signing up for a credit card . maybe we actually do have to have slightly fewer clothes and pay a little bit more for it. otherwise, we're just going to continue on this cycle where they have dangerous conditions in bangladesh , we get cheap teeshirts here which we then donate to africa and devastate their garment industry .
>> it's all about the buyers, the western buyers, and if they do establish who they're working with, these working relationships, they got to know if these people are then going to subcontract out to substandard facilities and figure out where this is starting from. i want to thank the panel today. ryan , jamel, and josh, gentlemen, thanks so much. have