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Morning News Brief


President Trump started off his Sunday morning with a post about happy Easter.


That's what he said at 7:27 a.m., according to his Twitter timeline. And then a little bit later - 8:56 a.m. - the tone abruptly changed. The president wrote that Border Patrol agents could not do their jobs because of, quote, "liberal Democrat laws." He said there would be no deal to preserve DACA. That's the program giving some rights to people that - who were brought to the United States as children and don't have legal status. Then the president threatened to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement to retaliate against Mexico for illegal immigration. And he warned of caravans headed toward the border. The presidential eruption came shortly after a Fox News report on Easter Sunday morning about a caravan of migrants. And when it was over, Fox News reported the story with the caption, Trump strengthens immigration stance.

MARTIN: All right, a lot to unpack here - we've got NPR's correspondent in Mexico City, Carrie Kahn, with us on the line.

Good morning, Carrie.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: Let's start with these caravans that President Trump referenced in his series of tweets. What are these?

KAHN: Well, there is a large group of migrants from Central America traveling through Mexico en masse together. I spoke to one of the organizers of this caravan, as they're calling it, yesterday. And he puts the number at around 1,200 men, women and children, mainly from Honduras. They gathered at Mexico's southern border city Tapachula, Chiapas, and began walking, riding buses, trains and trucks together and are expected to arrive near to Mexico City this Thursday.

MARTIN: So is this the first time this has happened, Carrie, that such a large group of migrants would be coming kind of in the spotlight, out of the shadows in this organized way?

KAHN: No, it's not. And last May, I talked to a lot of Central Americans who were in a similar caravan like this here in Mexico City. And it was unclear then and it's unclear now how many of those people will actually head to the U.S. border. Many of them will ask for asylum here in Mexico and stay here without authorization in Mexico. And the group also told me that along the way, they're giving these migrants so-called workshops to tell them about the complexity and the difficulty of applying for asylum laws, and that most likely, they will be detained at the U.S. border if they tried to sneak in without authorization or if they ask a U.S. border guard for asylum. But just the numbers here of Central Americans in Mexico that have opted to stay in Mexico is rising greatly. And also, just one more point - that between February and March, these are historically high years - high months of the year when Central Americans begin a migration to the U.S., and apprehension numbers at the border show that. So Trump saying that they are here to take advantage of DACA don't really mesh out.

MARTIN: It - not - it also just doesn't work that way - right? - the DACA program.

KAHN: No. Exactly, right. The DACA program is not accepting any new applicants.

MARTIN: Is there any truth to what the president is saying, though, in terms of whether or not Mexico should be doing more, could be doing more to stop illegal immigration from Central America?

KAHN: Well, Mexico would say it's cooperating greatly with the U.S. on migration issues and doing all it can to stop illegal migration. There have been crackdowns by Mexican authorities here, but it's hard to keep those up. As in the U.S., detention facilities fill up here. Money is tight. And the situation in Central America has not changed, either. More migrants are coming now. And some would say in Honduras that conditions have gotten worse since they held a highly contentious presidential election last November.

INSKEEP: We should be clear, this is a debate about fact and emotion. Carrie's reporting facts that people who might be heading toward the border anyway, wisely or not, are going in groups because they feel it's safer. The way that gets interpreted by the president and many of his supporters is masses and masses of people are coming to overwhelm you. That is the message that the president and others send.

MARTIN: NPR's Carrie Kahn reporting for us this morning. Hey, Carrie, thanks so much.

KAHN: You're welcome.


MARTIN: All right, so we reported there President Trump talked about tearing up NAFTA if Mexico doesn't do more on immigration. He's using trade to try to pressure Mexico. He's actually doing the same thing with China. And now China is pushing back.

INSKEEP: Yeah, you may recall the president announced tariffs on steel and aluminum last month. The administration soon refined that declaration to let some countries out of it, but certainly not China. And then the president made more moves against China. And last night, as promised, China struck back, imposing new tariffs on U.S. products.

MARTIN: All right, we've got NPR's Rob Schmitz with us from Shanghai.

Hey, Rob.

ROB SCHMITZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: What exactly is being targeted with China's new tariffs?

SCHMITZ: This is a long list. We've got 128 products from apples and berries to pork products, recycled aluminum, ethanol. And the tariffs that'll be slapped on them when they enter China will range from 15-25 percent. In a statement, China's Ministry of Commerce said, quote, "we hope that the United States will rescind its measures that violate World Trade Organization rules as quickly as possible." And those measures that Beijing is talking about here are, of course, the tariffs that the U.S. has imposed on steel and aluminum imports from countries like China.

MARTIN: What does this mean for trade between the U.S. and China? And what does it mean for consumers?

SCHMITZ: Well, you know, the U.S. exports more than 115 billion dollars' worth of goods to China. So 3 billion over 120 categories of products is, in trade terms, sort of a drop in the bucket.

MARTIN: Right.

SCHMITZ: China seems to be purposely avoiding America's biggest exports to China, which would include soybeans, sorghum, commercial jets made by Boeing. They're not on this list. What is interesting here is that a lot of the products on this tariff list are produced in rural or working-class regions of the U.S., areas that voted for Trump in the 2016 election. It's clear that China's going after his base. What's also interesting is that when Beijing announced this list a couple weeks ago, it did so saying it would impose these tariffs if Beijing and Washington couldn't come to an agreement on Trump's threat of across-the-board tariffs on Chinese imports. So we weren't sure these Chinese tariffs would come. But suddenly, today, Beijing just went ahead and approved them. So this seems like a significant escalation in this trade standoff between the U.S. and China.

MARTIN: You're saying, though, that China isn't putting all its cards on the table right now. There are still other things - right? - that they - other moves they could make. Do you expect that to happen? I mean, are we in a trade war?

SCHMITZ: Not yet. We're still waiting. In many ways, we're waiting for the Trump administration to come up with a list of Chinese products that it wants to target with around 60 billion dollars' worth of tariffs. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer still has a week to deliver on that. Once that's done, there's supposed to be a monthlong comment period before the Trump administration finalizes and then implements the tariffs. So we've still got some time.

MARTIN: So that's going to be even worse. I mean, if China has made this move without even knowing the extent of this specific tariffs, then we can expect another Chinese move.

SCHMITZ: April could be a very tense month as the world's two largest economies sort of prepare to duke it out on this. So yeah, I think prepare for choppier waters in the weeks to come here.

INSKEEP: The president still faces the same question as past presidents - how to fight Chinese trade practices without doing more harm than good to the United States.

MARTIN: Yeah. NPR's Rob Schmitz for us this morning. Hey, Rob, thanks so much.

SCHMITZ: Thanks.


MARTIN: All right, now to the Gaza border and the fallout from the violence there.

INSKEEP: In short, Israel's defense minister says there will be no fallout. Israel says there is no need to investigate the troops who opened fire on Palestinians last week. Protesters in Gaza marched to the fortified Israeli border. Israeli troops opened fire with live as well as rubber bullets, killing at least 15 people. Human rights groups are saying that Israel used excessive force, while Israel says its forces were simply defending themselves.

MARTIN: All right, let's bring in NPR's Daniel Estrin, reporting in Gaza this morning.

Hey, Daniel.


MARTIN: So I understand that this was a pretty large demonstration, right? Do you have any sense of what exactly was motivating so many Palestinians in this moment to go to the Gaza border that day?

ESTRIN: Well, there were big rallies organized along the border. Palestinians were demanding to return to lands that are today a part of Israel. And this was a big rally that Hamas, the militant group, encouraged people to go to. A number of people I spoke to said, you know, they wanted to get out of the crowded city. They wanted some fresh air. But then closer to the border fence, Israel said young Palestinians gathered, and that's where the violence was. We were at the border yesterday. We met an 18-year-old Palestinian, Hamada Zaza. His hand was bandaged from a rubber bullet wound, and he said he had shot fireworks towards soldiers. And I asked him why he went to protest.

HAMADA ZAZA: (Speaking Arabic).

ESTRIN: He said, "I want to die." You know, he says, "there's no work in Gaza." He's so bored, he counts the number of times he crosses the street. He blamed this on the rulers in Gaza, the Islamist militant group Hamas. He says he sees no point in living. And, you know, he felt he had little to lose, going to the border.

MARTIN: So we hear Israel and the Palestinians describing what happened differently. So now the U.N. is saying that it wants - what? - just things to be cleared up? What does it want from an investigation?

ESTRIN: Well, the U.N. chief and the EU's foreign policy chief are both calling for an investigation - an independent investigation. Human rights groups are accusing Israel of excessive use of force. And there are disputes, first of all, about the numbers of injured. Palestinian officials say more than 700 people were wounded by live gunfire. Israel says those numbers are much lower. There are also disputes about who was killed. Israel says 10 people who were killed were militants. But in one instance, I visited a family of someone who was killed - shot while running away from the border. And Israel says he was a Hamas militant. The family says he wasn't.

MARTIN: So Israel is saying it's not going to comply with the U.N.'s request to do an investigation. Is that going to provoke more violence?

ESTRIN: We'll have to see. The Palestinians are vowing to continue protesting at this border for the next six weeks, culminating in mid-May, when the U.S. is moving its embassy to Jerusalem.

MARTIN: All right, NPR's Daniel Estrin. He is reporting for us this morning from Gaza. Hey, Daniel, thank you so much.

ESTRIN: My pleasure.


NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.

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