STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
We're entering a weekend when immigration authorities promise to be busy. President Trump and his administration have promoted raids on immigrant communities in major cities. The administration promises to target people who already have deportation orders against them. House Democrats will be watching how the raids unfold, among them Jamie Raskin of Maryland, who is a member of the House Oversight Committee. And he's on the line. Good morning, Congressman.
JAMIE RASKIN: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: I guess we should note the president promises a lot of things will happen. Some of them do happen; many don't. Do you have reason to believe that immigration authorities will be doing something special this weekend?
RASKIN: Well, we heard it before the policy was pulled back. We hope that there are not going to be a series of dragnet roundups of people. The country is still reeling from what we have learned about what's taking place at the border over the last year with children being separated from their parents and with terrible conditions that are just coming to light.
INSKEEP: Now, you're talking about two different things here - the conditions at the border and then there's the matter of these raids. I want to get to them both. Let me stick with the raids for a moment because it can sound cruel. You're going to go into cities and round up families, perhaps, and take them away. And yet the administration says they're focusing on people who have deportation orders. Shouldn't we expect Immigration and Customs Enforcement to enforce lawful orders if you're going to have them at all?
RASKIN: We should expect compliance with the law by the government and also by people who are in the country. Obviously, people are in a range of different legal conditions, and so we don't know exactly, you know, what populations are being targeted and which are not. And what we've discovered in terms of our investigation at the border is there's a lot of chaos and there's a lot of incompetence and there's constant personnel changes taking place. And so I'm just - I'm nervous about adding thousands more people into a system that has proven not able to deal with people in a respectful and decent way.
INSKEEP: Now, let me ask about your committee's examination of the child separation policy. And here's a question that is on my mind. The administration, in many ways, announced this is a policy of separating families and said that it was a deterrent, as John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, called it. The administration later denied that it was a policy at all and then abandoned the policy. And yet, we continue hearing stories of child separation. Present day, right now - this month, this year - are families still being separated at the border so far as you know?
RASKIN: Well, this is one of the things we're going to try to determine today in our oversight hearing on the question of separating kids from their families. We know that this was indeed a conscious, determined policy of the administration during the zero-tolerance period. The administration said it was backing off of that. But we know that there have been many children separated from their parents even after the policy technically was disavowed.
INSKEEP: Now, let me ask about one more thing that relates to immigration. The House majority leader, Steny Hoyer, says the full House is going to move ahead with a contempt vote against William Barr, the attorney general, for withholding information that was requested about the effort to add a question about citizenship to the census.
The president has since said one reason for doing this was to try to shape the way congressional districts were drawn, and he still wants to do that through other means. Is there any doubt in your mind about what the president's motivation has been now?
RASKIN: No. The administration's motivation from the beginning has been a political one. They try to volunteer a different justification for it, which is they wanted to protect voting rights. But that was quite the opposite. They actually wanted to dilute voting rights and to shrink representation of particular populations and to essentially forward their gerrymandering goals. The courts have completely rejected all of these pretexts, which is why the citizenship question is not going to be on the census this year - because they did not volunteer their honest justification, and there was no valid justification offered.
INSKEEP: Has the president done a kind of service in that he's now explicitly saying why it is he wants to go in this direction?
RASKIN: Well, I think - yes, at least it surfaces their candid motivation here. I wish they had said that from the beginning. But what all of the experts tell us is that if you put the citizenship question on the census, you're actually going to get a less-accurate census. Millions of people are not going to participate. We were already getting the information about citizenship and non-citizenship through another part of the survey, which gave us a more fine-grained sense of who was out there.
So look; we can discuss this again for the next census. But this was pasted on at the very end by the administration. And it's been rejected by the courts. And it's way too late to do it.
INSKEEP: Well, let me ask. The president has said he still wants the information. There are other ways to get it out of other parts of the government, and he would like encourage states to use it in drawing their congressional districts. Is that appropriate?
RASKIN: Well, you know, that's a policy debate about whether districts should be drawn according to citizenship - or voting age population is what they talk about. The problem is that's not how we've done it basically since the beginning of the republic.
You know, women were counted as part of the apportionment basis before they could vote. Children are still counted. Noncitizens have been counted. This is the way it's been done. So he's proposing a pretty radical change in terms of how we think about it. And I - you know, states will have to take it up. But I don't see any reason for this enormous change at the last minute in terms of thinking about reapportionment and redistricting for 2020.
INSKEEP: Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland. Thanks so much.
RASKIN: My pleasure to be with you, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.