In the Monday edition of Amanpour & Co on PBS, host Christiane Amanpour spoke with brand-new Rep. Delia Ramirez (D-Ill.) about Brazil, refugees, the Dreamers, and the House Speaker vote.
Amanpour let Ramirez’s personal story as a first-generation immigrant stand in for actual journalism, while both host and guest compared the political chaos in Brazil to the Capitol riots of January 6, 2020 and even the delayed vote for House Speaker. Amanpour also accused the GOP of weaponing governance, a line that was missing from the PBS version of the show (Amanpour & Co. first airs in the afternoon as Amanpour on CNN International).
The part in bold below was clipped out of the PBS version, but appeared in the segment's initial airing on CNN International (starting at the 11:15 mark of the clip hosted at CNN.com).
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you one final question? [You know, you say, you know, a big incoming class of Democrats, but in the House, obviously, they have a slight majority, your opposition. And they seem to be weaponizing, basically, governance. And this is not new. We've seen it under the, you know, the Trump administration, it goes all the way back to Newt Gingrich. I mean, I guess again,] what space do you think there will be in this 118th Congress for you all to work across the aisle and legislate on big issues like this, which seem to be existential to the Republicans?
Amanpour began by aggressively comparing the new Congress under Kevin McCarthy to riots in America and Brazil:
AMANPOUR: Now, the parallels, as we said, between Brazil's January 8th and America's January 6th are striking. Even now, two years after the Capitol building was stormed in Washington, the 118th American Congress commemorated the day with yet more chaos. Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, struggling through 15 votes to get the Speaker's gavel. His victory finally came after he made yet more concessions to a hardline group of rebels. It is sparking fears of a dysfunctional Congress while the United States faces urgent challenges.
Amanpour’s guest, Rep. Ramirez, made a ridiculous comparison that went unchallenged by Amanpour -- that she and her Democratic colleagues were “feeling like our Congress was held hostage by rebels who wanted to negotiate away rights, democracy in our own Congress, in our own Speakership role, all of that feels like we have not really surpassed where we were two years ago.”
Host Amanpour goaded the congresswoman into telling her life story, injecting still more personal sympathy for the so-called Dreamers: “….literally you came to the United States in your mother's belly. She was pregnant when she had to swim across the river to get through. Tell me about how that personal story put you where you are today.”
It was clear where Amanpour’s sympathies lay when she cited Ramirez’s “Dreamer” husband and asked: “So, how urgent is it for you to get some kind of rational immigration policy?” Amnesty = rationality.
RAMIREZ: It's urgent for me, but it's urgent to so many people. When we think about "DREAMers,"DACA recipients, they're no longer children. They are 35, 36, in my husband's case, 37 years old. They have over 300,000 American children in this country. They are essential workers. They're home health care workers. They work in the health care system.
As time has passed, the arguments for keeping “The Dreamers” in the United States have shifted. Once they were too young and innocent to be deported; now they are too old and vital to the economy.
A partial transcript is below, click "expand" to read:
PBS’s Amanpour & Co.
January 9, 2023
11:35:40 p.m. Eastern
Now, the parallels, as we said, between Brazil's January 8th and America's January 6th are striking. Even now, two years after the capitol building was stormed in Washington, the 118th American Congress commemorated the day with yet more chaos. Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy, struggling through 15 votes to get the speaker's gavel. His victory finally came after he made yet more concessions to a hardline group of rebels.
It is sparking fears of a dysfunctional Congress while the United States faces urgent challenges. Challenges like immigration with President Biden highlighted on his visit to the southern border before traveling on to Mexico. It is a very real issue for my first guest tonight. The Freshman Representative from Illinois, Delia Ramirez. Welcome to the program Congresswoman from Washington. I just want to ask you, south of the border, you saw what happened in Brazil to the point that, you know, an insurrectionist was sitting in the speaker's chair there just as they did in Nancy Pelosi's chair on January 6th, 2020. Do you think that there is a sort of retrenchment of democracy in the United States or do you think that there are still, you know, issues.
REP. DELIA RAMIREZ, (D-IL-03): There is certainly still issues and -- Christiane, first thing, thank you so much for having you with me today. As I watched those images, it was triggering. What happened in Brazil is deja vu to what we experienced here two years ago. But truthfully even as we waited three or four days to be able to finally be sworn in, feeling like our Congress was held hostage by rebels who wanted to negotiate away rights, democracy in our own Congress, in our own speakership role, all of that feels like we have not really surpassed where we were two years ago.
AMANPOUR: So, you are talking about your own swearing in which was delayed by the endless votes to get Kevin McCarthy in the speaker's office and holding that gavel. So, here is veteran, you know, Washington Journalist Margaret Carlson, who said, McCarthy will be made miserable by the same nihilists who forced him to crawl on glass to win. He will have to face the job he debased himself for.
So, respond to that in terms of whether there is even going to be a stable Congress. Because it appears that he can be thrown out by even one rebel at any time.
RAMIREZ: That's correct. That is correct. I mean, this is someone that, at any cost, and it didn't matter what he had to give away or sell out to just to become speaker. This was -- this obsession, I want to be speaker, I want the title, even if it means that it strips all my powers and my authority.
What we saw in the last four days and we're going to continue to see, even as we go in to vote on rules tonight is no real governance. And, in part mostly because Kevin McCarthy decided to just give everything up to these rebels who are going to threaten and attack our democracy at every single corner in Congress.
AMANPOUR: So, no real governance and there are many, many issues including, obviously, economic issues but also immigration issues, which the President Biden is highlighting today. He has been to the border, he's got -- he's in Mexico City with the President there.
For you, this is extremely personal. I mean, literally you are a first generation -- I mean, literally you came to the United States in your mother's belly. She was pregnant when she had to swim across the river to get through. Tell me about how that personal story put you where you are today.
RAMIREZ: I mean, for me, my mother escaped poverty. My mother did not wear her first pair of any shoes, sandals for that matter, until the age of seven when she bought them herself after selling coffee that she cut in coffee plantations back in our town.
And so, to be able to see where we are and the crisis that we see across the country, but particularly what we are seeing at the border of people seeking life, survival. I think of my mother nearly dying in that border, nearly dying crossing a border in Rio Grande in her first trimester, pregnant of me. And how much she risked and things that we won't even know that she went through crossing that border so that her daughter can be born here and today be the first Latina to go to Congress from the entire Midwest.
It is certainly a moment of gratitude for me, humility, personal as we talk about immigration, but also a sense of urgency and responsibility as that daughter.
AMANPOUR: And I believe she came from Guatemala, right? That was your home country?
RAMIREZ: She did.
RAMIREZ: So, she crossed all of Guatemala. My family is from the border of Honduras in El Salvador. So, it was crossing all of Guatemala and all of Mexico to be able to finally get here.
AMANPOUR: So, there have been -- there has been a lot of issues with refugees trying to get to the United States, trying to claim asylum, all the rules and regulations have made it incredibly, incredibly hard for them. And again, this is personal for you. Your own husband is a so-called
"DREAMer" under the DACA Program. He's not yet a citizen. I mean, you obviously are, you were born in the United States. So, how urgent is it for you to get some kind of rational immigration policy?
RAMIREZ: It's urgent for me, but it's urgent to so many people. When we think about "DREAMers", DACA recipients, they're no longer children. They are 35, 36. In my husband's case, 37 years old. They have over 300,000 American children in this country. They are essential workers. They're home health care workers. They work in the health care system.
And we have been talking and debating about a pathway to citizenship for so long on both sides of the aisle. And I think that we have reached a place that we can't continue to have conversations that lead to nothing. We need to get to a place of real negotiation, real coordinated conversation that leads to a pathway to citizenship to people that contribute billions of dollars to this country every single year.
People that are my husband, my brother-in-law who is also a "DREAMer", my best friend from high school who has been here since she was five years old, has raised three children and put them through -- and put at least one of them through college. They are the essence of this country and we cannot continue to politicize this issue.
AMANPOUR: ….Can I ask you one final question?
You know, you say, you know a big incoming class of Democrats. But in the House, obviously, they have a slight majority, your opposition. And they seem to be weaponizing, basically, governance. And this is not new. We've seen it under the, you know, the Trump administration, it goes all the way back to Newt Gingrich. I mean – I guess, again, what space, do you think, there will be in this 118th Congress for you all to work across the aisle and legislate on big issues like this, which seemed to be existential to the Republicans?
RAMIREZ: Yes, that is correct. Look, there is going to be a lot of defense, it's just the reality of what we saw these last four days. I was hoping it would not have been this bad. We all saw three or four rounds, McCarthy gets elected, we start working. They allowed it to be four days where constituency services could not be provided. Where we were not able to be sworn in and actually start doing the work.
This has told me that we are going to have to be in defense, most of the time. But I also have to say that the fact that they barely won the majority tells us that there are a number of Republican members of Congress who are in districts where they have to actually consider the possibility of moving to the left, moving more moderate. I find that in those places, there might be an opportunity to build some kind of partnership if it is in housing and childcare, and maybe even in a conversation about immigration.
AMANPOUR: And of course, homelessness is a big issue of yours as well. Congresswoman, Delia Ramirez, thank you for joining us.