ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
A couple of Democratic states attorneys general say that they will use all means necessary to try to block President Trump's action. One of them is New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, who joins us now from Albuquerque. Welcome to the program.
HECTOR BALDERAS: Thank you for having me.
SIEGEL: And in your case, what does all means necessary mean?
BALDERAS: Well, I do believe that there will be various states attorneys general across the country that will take legal action to defend the DREAMers. They are as American as Melania Trump. They have complied with rules. And more importantly, this is a much broader debate. Rather than immigration, this is about protecting the American dream and the Constitution.
SIEGEL: But can't a president reverse an executive action of his predecessor provided that there's no law that's been passed by Congress to back up that presidential action?
BALDERAS: They can provided that they don't violate due process. A president can take any legal action in defense of the nation provided it protects Americans equally. And more importantly, the president, I believe, needs to support immigration policy that strengthens the national security. And I do believe the DREAMers, as Americans, do strengthen national security.
SIEGEL: But that would be a policy decision. The president, I should say, is leaving Congress six months to pass a law that would cover the DREAMers. If they did pass a law that kept them in the country, wouldn't that be a stronger basis for addressing their problem than an executive order?
BALDERAS: Well, there definitely should be some long-term solution. Clearly the president and the Congress should take a leadership role and strengthen the clarity of the law. But I also believe that in pursuing the rule of law, you need to pursue justice. And there is a path for these DREAMers to have their constitutional rights protected.
SIEGEL: And I should have said in this case an executive action, since this was not technically an executive order. Let's say you won the argument in court that a president's executive action is binding upon his successor. Are you prepared to say that executive orders by Donald Trump can't be reversed by his successor if a federal judge says they don't violate equal rights or another constitutional provision?
BALDERAS: Well, I don't think there's any AGs that are proposing that the president's actions be binding on the next president. What we're simply saying is that to create a set of rules for DREAMers and strictly change the rules without any due process could potentially violate law. But more importantly, that there should be equal protections in how we treat the immigrant population.
And clearly the DREAMers are the best of the best. These are individuals who were brought here as children. They have learned English. And more importantly, they have passed background check and comply with Homeland Security. So these are not just your run-of-the-mill immigrants who have just somehow recently crossed the border. These are Americans for all intents and purposes. And we do believe that they deserve a rule of law that balances justice when enforcing.
SIEGEL: What do you say to a critic of illegal immigration who might argue that while the DREAMers' situation is sympathetic, next would come an argument for the DREAMers' parents and for other family members? There's no shortage of people with sympathetic stories who've done things. The issue is really whether federal immigration law is respected.
BALDERAS: Well, I've been absolutely a very strong advocate for deporting criminals. I've been a strong advocate for tougher border security. But I'm also an advocate for balancing individuals who for all intents and purposes are Americans. And more importantly, immigration policy needs to strengthen national security and our economy. And clearly the DREAMers are superstars in getting education and work permits. They are Americans worth defending. And immigration should be consistent with (unintelligible) that type of law.
SIEGEL: But again, you would say that's a legal decision, not a policy decision, as to whether they should be permitted to remain in the country.
BALDERAS: Yes. What I'm saying is that as they conduct those policy decisions that they should legally be treated with the type of due process and the type of equal protection that normal Americans receive when pursuing the American dream.
SIEGEL: New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, thank you very much for talking with us today.
BALDERAS: Thank you.
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