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News Brief: Houston Update, DACA, Kenyan Court Calls For New Election

Sep 1, 2017
Originally published on September 1, 2017 7:27 am
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Today marks one week since Harvey made landfall along the Gulf Coast. Today may also mark the first of many, many days of recovery in the region.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The death toll now stands at at least 36. And that could keep rising as rescuers access more homes and places that had been blocked by floodwaters. Now, speaking of homes, the White House says some 100,000 homes have been impacted by this disaster - either damaged or completely destroyed. Vice President Mike Pence made his first trip to tour the damage yesterday.

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VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: The challenges will be great. But we know that the generosity and the prayers and the faith of the people of Texas and the American people will be greater still.

MARTIN: NPR's Nathan Rott has been bringing us coverage from Texas all week. He's back with us now. Hey, Nate. Let's start with the news of what is happening right now. I understand the waters - the floods - are starting to recede where you are. And the storm has now reached Tennessee. Give us the lay of the land.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: Yeah. I mean, so a couple of the quick developing stories that we're keeping an eye on here in going into the weekend - there's this chemical plant in Crosby, Texas. It's about - I don't know - about a half-hour's drive from where I am here in downtown Houston. To catch people up with that, there were fires and two explosions at that plant yesterday as these tanks filled with an organic peroxide overheated and blew up. Officials at that plant are now saying that eight more tanks could blow in the coming days. So that's obviously something to keep an eye on.

Another thing we're watching is water availability and contamination. I saw last night that the town of Beaumont - that's about 70 miles east of here - it lost its water pumps to flooding yesterday, so there's no drinking water there. And then that's not to mention the big infrastructure issues, the damaged bridges, roadways and homes that are being revealed as these waters start to recede.

MARTIN: So people are going back home. Or some of them are able to make that journey. Life kind of - I mean, it's not going to be normal for so long. But at least people are getting back to their properties?

ROTT: Yeah. People are getting back. And, you know, I was thinking about this last night. You know, it is kind of going back to normal in some ways. But normal is good and bad. You know, this is going to take not months - years to clean up.

MARTIN: Yeah.

ROTT: And so you have people dealing with that - flooded homes, lost cars, property - just the trauma of this whole experience. And now you're starting to have people have to deal with these - you know, the day to day minutiae of normal life again. The adrenaline's wearing off. And people are realizing, hey, I still have to pay my phone bill, my car payment. It's the first of the month. So rent is due. And I think that's just really starting to sink in for people. And it's overwhelming.

MARTIN: Yeah. You've been there all week. What have you been seeing, Nate, that we might not be able to see or understand from a distance?

ROTT: You know, there's one thing that a bunch of us here on the ground have been talking about. And I'm going to try to do it justice real quick. But it's just how complicated the narratives are during something like this. I mean, I think from afar, you watch or listen to the news. You hear people who are victims, right? They've lost their home. They're evacuating - whatever it may be. And then you hear about the heroes - right? - the boat rescuers, the firefighters, the thousands of volunteers.

But, really, here on the ground, there's no difference between those two groups. You know, we've met bus driver. There's a bus driver who is moving people from an evacuation center to another because her home was OK, and she wanted to help. And then on the bus, her home, she learned, was flooding. I could go on and on. I mean, the point is that there are people here on the ground who are all victims of this terrible, unprecedented storm. And almost everybody here is kind of a hero in their own little way.

MARTIN: Everyone's hurting and helping at the same time. NPR's Nate Rott, who's been reporting from Houston all week. Nate, thanks so much.

ROTT: Thank you, Rachel.

MARTIN: Hundreds of thousands of people are bracing for a big decision regarding immigration here in the U.S.

KELLY: That's right. The question is whether President Trump will end DACA. This is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which currently protects some 800,000 immigrants from deportation. These are the so-called DREAMers who came into the country illegally as children. Now, earlier this year, remember, the president spoke about the dreamers in a way that sounded like he empathized.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They were brought here in such a way - it's a very, very tough subject. We are going to deal with DACA with heart.

KELLY: OK. But, Rachel, back on the campaign trail Trump promised repeatedly to terminate the program.

MARTIN: All right. So what is the fate of DACA? NPR's Scort (ph) - Scort. I just called you Scort. Scott Horsley.

KELLY: (Laughter).

MARTIN: I botched your name the other day. Hi, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Racquel.

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MARTIN: Touche. Why is this question about DACA coming up right now?

HORSLEY: Well, there's a group of conservative state attorney generals who have basically given the administration an ultimatum. They've said, end this program by next Tuesday, or they're going to file a lawsuit. They argue that DACA, which was put in place five years ago by the Obama administration, was an abuse of presidential power. That's the position that Trump himself took during the campaign. And while, as you heard, he has softened his position, the attorney generals want to essentially force the president to do what he promised during the campaign.

MARTIN: So this deadline's approaching. What would it mean for Trump to simply take no action and let the deadline pass?

HORSLEY: Presumably, the attorney generals would then follow through and file their lawsuit. And then, ordinarily, it would be up to the Justice Department to defend the federal government. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, however, is a hard-liner when it comes to immigration. So it's hard to imagine that his defense would be particularly vigorous.

MARTIN: So what are the president's options on this, then?

HORSLEY: He could continue the program as it is and let the federal court sort it out. He could offer the attorneys general some sort of compromise, where he says, OK, we're going to phase this program out. We're not going to issue any new work permits to these young people or other protections. And we're not going to issue any new ones. Or he could terminate the program abruptly and basically say to 800,000 young people, you are now immediately eligible for deportation.

It's also possible that Congress would step in here with some sort of rescue and authorize a legislative protection for these so-called DREAMers that would get around the argument that this is executive overreach. That's probably a long shot. But there is a Republican lawmaker, Mike Coffman, from a swing district in Colorado who is pushing his legislative colleagues to do just that.

MARTIN: So if DACA's terminated by the president or a court, what does that mean, in practical terms, for all the young people who right now depend on its legal protections?

HORSLEY: Well, it might not mean an immediate knock at the door. But it is certainly the fear. You know, DACA was supposed to be a stopgap measure back in 2012 as Congress weighed more comprehensive overhaul of immigration policy. Young people took a chance. They identified themselves to the federal government. They came out of the shadows. In some cases, they indirectly identified family members, as well. And now there's a fear that they have put themselves and perhaps their families at risk.

MARTIN: All right. NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley reporting this morning on the future of DACA. Hey, Scott, thanks so much.

HORSLEY: You're welcome.

MARTIN: There's new political chaos in Kenya, where the Supreme Court has thrown out the results of last month's presidential election.

KELLY: Yeah. This is something, Rachel. The elections commission in Kenya had found that the incumbent president - that's Uhuru Kenyatta - they found that he had won the election by a lot - by more than a million votes. And now today, the Supreme Court has ruled that, in fact, there were irregularities - enough irregularities to affect the integrity of the vote.

MARTIN: All right. NPR's East Africa correspondent, Eyder Peralta, joins us now on the line from Nairobi. Eyder, step back a little bit and tell us how we got to this point here.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Yes. So this was - you know, this started August 8, when the elections were held. And if you remember, you know, Uhuru Kenyatta won by a huge margin. And it's also worth noting that international observers said that this process was free and fair. But Raila Odinga, the opposition leader, claimed that there was a vast conspiracy to steal the election from him. And, I mean, some of it...

MARTIN: So was he right (laughter)?

PERALTA: Well, I think the court did not give any reasons for its decision. But - you know, so we don't know if the elections were hacked or that the court found that the elections were hacked. But I think as the case moved through court we saw some very serious evidence that something went very wrong here.

I'll give you one example. There were tallying forms that were supposed to be filled out at the county level and these tallying forms had security features. One of them - you would hold a UV light on it, and it had a water mark on it. And what the court found - not what allegations were made by either party - but what the court found is that 20 percent of these forms did not have this watermark. So it just left open huge questions that we really don't have answers for...

MARTIN: Yeah.

PERALTA: ...As to where these forms came from and what happened to the forms that were supposed to be used. So - and the only thing the court told us is that they saw enough of those irregularities to warrant annulling this election.

MARTIN: Wow. I mean, so this is huge. What happens now? I mean, I remember talking to you last month. Because of the protests by the opposition candidate, there was there was violence, right? So what happens now?

PERALTA: There was. And so the court has ordered elections within the next 60 days. But I think the big question is the opposition is saying, we don't trust the elections commission who conducted this first election to do this again. So we'll see.

MARTIN: (Laughter) We'll see. That's a lot packed into those few words. We'll see, indeed. Eyder Peralta - he is reporting this morning on the Supreme Court of Kenya's decision to overrule the presidential election results. That election happened last month. Eyder, thanks so much this morning.

PERALTA: Thank you, Rachel.

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