The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 11/21/14
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chad.
MADDOW: Have a good weekend, Chris.
HAYES: Well, at least the Internet didn`t notice, you know –
MADDOW: Thanks, Chris. Have a great weekend.
All right. These are pictures of President Obama onboard Air Force
One today signing the first executive memoranda to start implementing the
new immigration changes that he announced in his big primetime speech last
Just after the 2012 election, the president gave a speech at Del Sol
High School in Las Vegas, in which he announced the terms on what he
thought Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate could agree
on comprehensive immigration reform legislation. A bill along those lines
did pass the Senate about six months after that speech. But House
Republicans refused to ever vote on it.
That refusal is why President Obama says he acted on his own,
unilaterally, as president last night, to use his powers as president to
improve the system as much as he can.
And then, today, he went back to Del Sol High School, back to the same
podium at the same high school in Las Vegas, basically to tell them he made
good on his promise. He got it done. Congress couldn`t get it done, but
he got it done.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I cajoled and I called
and I met. I told John Boehner, you know, I`ll wash your car, I`ll walk
your dog. Whatever you need to do, just this – just call the bill.
That`s how democracy is supposed to work.
The fact that a year and a half has gone by means the time has been
Las Vegas, I`ve come back to Del Sol to tell you I`m not giving up. I
will never give up. I will never give up.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
I will not give up.
CROWD: Si si puede! Si si puede! Si puede!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Last night, when President Obama gave his big speech, that,
of course, was a formal address from the East Room in the White House. And
so, what that means in the moment is that the president just spoke to a
camera and not to any audience there in the room with him. But you can
tell when he got out in front of this crowd today in Las Vegas, you can
tell he knew what the good parts were from his speech. And he knew they`d
sound a lot different, a lot better when you can say them in front of
people who would respond.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Whether we fled famine or war or persecution, whether we had
the right documents or connections or skills, whether we were wealthy or
poor, we all shared one thing, and that was hope that America would be the
place where we – where we could finally build a better life for ourselves.
That`s what makes us Americans. It`s not what we look like. It`s not
what our last name is. It`s not where we come from. It`s not how we pray.
What makes us American is a shared commitment to an ideal that all of
us are created equal. All of us have a chance to make our lives what we
For generations, for generations, America, by choice, and Americans by
birth have come together to renew that common creed and move this country
forward that brought us to this moment. That is the legacy that we now
have to deliver to the next generation.
Thank you, Nevada. God bless you. God bless the United States of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: If there`s any question as to whether or not Democrats will
run on the issue of immigration and on what this Democratic president just
did, even though he had to do it on his own, in order to do the right thing
on immigration in this country, the president is modeling for Democrats
nationwide, basically how you preach that particular gospel, how you run on
this, the way you talk about it.
And it now seems pretty freaking obvious – forgive me – that
President Obama probably should have don this before the midterms instead
of waiting until after them. When you see how this announcement has been
received and the kind of energy it has put into potential Democratic voters
and potential Democratic voters, right? The way this has been received,
the way it makes Democrats seem in the fight, in case that isn`t clear
enough yet just from what`s happened already in the last 24 hours, it`s not
just what he has done that has this crowd today up on its feet screaming.
Check out the response just by checking out the kind of box he put the
Republicans into on this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: When members of Congress question my authority to make our
immigration system work better, I have a simple answer: Pass a bill.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
Pass a bill. Pass a bill. Nobody is stopping them from passing a
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
You know – pass a bill.
You know, I mean, I –
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was President Obama speaking in Las Vegas today. And
who knows, maybe the Republicans will pass a bill. Ha, ha, ha.
I mean, that is one of their options for what to do about immigration
now, right? Or had you expressed their very hard feelings about what
President Obama has done on immigration. They could pass their own bill on
the issue of comprehensive immigration reform. Ha, ha, ha.
Anybody who thinks House Republicans are now going to roll out their
own immigration reform plan? May I interest you in a fine, genuine 100
percent authentic Rolex time piece? I only take cash.
I mean, really? You think – oh, the Republicans are now going to do
their own thing on immigration?
There is this thing that happens in politics after a president has a
really, really bad midterm election. Usually, what happens is the
president kind of shrinks. And you can tell the president is shrinking
because he has to spend a lot of time saying “I`m not shrinking. I`m still
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: And the Constitution
gives me relevance. The power of our ideas gives me relevance. The record
that we`ve built up over the last two years and the things we`re trying to
implement it give it relevance. The president is relevant here.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: I`m going to sprint to finish, and
finish his job strong, that`s one way to ensure that I am relevant. It`s
one way to ensure that I`m in the process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: George W. Bush and Bill Clinton speaking after they suffered
terrible midterm losses, having to explain to a skeptical press corps that
they still mattered.
Well, this current president suffered a terrible midterm losses. But
that kind, hey, I`m still here, I`m still relevant, that`s sort of, you
know, singing in Fieldmouse voice thing, is not what is happening in this
White House right now.
If you couldn`t tell it from how manifestly psyched President Obama
was today at that appearance in Nevada, the White House is also just happy
to flat out admit that they`re delighted with how things are going right
now, basically because they are getting done what they want to get done.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN PFEIFFER, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: We feel very good
about how the last 2 1/2 weeks have gone here. I think that, you know,
typically, when you have a change in power in Congress, the new
congressional majority dominates the conversation and drives the
discussion. I think over the last – you know, since essentially right
after the election, it`s been the president what`s been driving the
discussion in this town.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Dan Pfeiffer, White House communications director, basically
saying what everybody is thinking what`s going on in politics right now,
which is that this president appears to have found his mojo. He`s back.
I mean, for all their stomping their feet and hollering about how mad
they are and how upset they are about what President Obama has done, how
sorry he`s going to be for what he`s done on immigration, you know, after
knowing for weeks and months that this announcement was coming, after
threatening all that time that President Obama would rue the day he took
action like this on immigration, what did the Republicans actually do
today, in Washington after President made his big announcement? Is they
held a press conference and then decided to go home.
They closed up shop this morning, left early for the Thanksgiving
break. They`ll be back sometime deep into December.
They started their vacation today. That`s how they`re fighting back.
They knew this was coming for weeks, for months. They knew this is coming.
They said he`ll be sorry. Wait until you see what we do.
What they did is they went home. For all the lighting their hair on
fire and the explosion metaphors and poising the well and getting – you
know, getting burned when you play with matches and the napalm and the
grenades, and all those other terrifying explosive metaphors they came up
with, what the Republicans say they`re going to do in response to this now
is they say they are not going to impeach him, they say they are not going
to shut down the government, they say they`re not going to shut down even a
little piece of the government. And if they do have something else in
mind, like passing their own immigration bill or something – $10.
There`s been no peep about it so far. And now, they really have gone
back on vacation.
One sure sign that the Republicans just got out-maneuvered here and
they are really going to walk away from this and try to put it behind them,
is the fact that FOX News has already stopped talking about it.
Today, while President Obama was giving his big speech in Nevada, and
everybody else was covering it, on FOX News Channel, they were just
pretending like it wasn`t happening.
And this is – this is awkward, right? Because President Obama doing
this was supposed to be the biggest deal in the world, it was supposed to
be the death of the republic. They were so wound up about this, and now,
they`re like, let`s move on. It`s awkward because they`ve gotten their
base so whipped up about it like it`s the end of the world. It is awkward
for them to just be trying to walk away from it now.
So, they did throw their base a nice bone today. House Republicans
finally filed their lawsuit today that they had announced during the summer
about something having to do with Obamacare.
So, think about that. They saved the filing of the lawsuit until
after the big immigration announcement, so it would look like they were
suing him over immigration. It would look like they`re punching right
back. Oh, yes, you`re going to do that? Well, we`ll take you to court.
We`re going to cram the tyrant back into his box.
Really, it is just – a totally unrelated manner. They just saved the
announcement so it looked like they had something to say they were doing
today, even though what they did today with this lawsuit has absolutely
nothing to do with what President Obama just announced or immigration at
If you want the best last evidence that the Republicans just had
gotten beat here and that they`re not actually going to do anything in
response, it is the emotional evidence that`s out there. The human
documentary evidence of what it would mean for them to actually, you know,
stop doing everything else they want to do in Congress and, instead, try to
tear down what President Obama just did.
It is one thing when you are crusading against the president for
something the president wants to do. He`s the bad guy and they love
crusading against him. But now that he has taken these actions, fighting
this doesn`t just mean fighting him anymore.
It means fighting this. It means fighting these folks and their
families and what this means for their American lives.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s going to keep us together. I think that`s
the biggest news that we`re staying together.
CRISTINA JIMENEZ, MANAGING DIRECTOR, UNITED WE DREAM: It`s a bitter
sweet moment. I`m a little bit in tears right now because I was able to
call my dad and my mom and let them know that based on the criteria that
has been shared, they will be protected from deportation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) they get the opportunity and her
mostly, you know (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, I can breathe better. That`s very
important. Thanks God. Thanks to the President Obama.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Finally, the president listened to us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ecstatic. Just hugging my mom right now and
knowing that she`s going to be here at the end of the day is the greatest
feeling in the world.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: It is one thing to wage a fight against big, bad President
Obama. It is another thing to wage a fight to materially and drastically
hurt the millions of families who President Obama has just helped.
Republicans made a lot of noise about this until he did it. Now, that he`s
done it, it kind of feels like it`s over. And as a side benefit, if you
didn`t think President Obama was the bad guy heading into this, if you kind
of like the old hope-y, change-y guy, kind of feels like he`s back.
Joining us now is Alan Gomez, immigration reporter for “USA Today”.
Mr. Gomez, thanks very much for being here. It`s nice to have you
ALAN GOMEZ, USA TODAY: Thanks for having me, Susie.
MADDOW: Well-played, sir. And for that, you get this genuine Rolex
MADDOW: All right. Alan, so among the people who have been
advocating for this change, what`s been the reaction to the president`s
announcement. Obviously, the change is not going to help everyone. But
among advocates, among people who wanted something from him, how do people
feel about what he did?
GOMEZ: Well, as you saw on the video a second ago, it`s absolute
elation. They`ve been fighting for this so long. They finally got not all
of what they got, but they got a lot. I mean, all these people that you`re
showing just now, they`re not going to be able to work and find better job
opportunities. They`re going to be able to get better education
opportunities, more access to universities, more access to driver`s
licenses. And basically that core issue of when they leave to work that
day, they know that they`ve going to come home.
So, that`s a huge thing. But at the same time, I`ve spoken to a lot
of these folks who are going to qualify for it, and there is a bit of a
sense of guilt that they get it, but others don`t. So, if you`re the
parent of a U.S. citizen, yes, you get to stay in the country and you`re
legally protected, by if you`re just an undocumented immigrant who`s worked
for 15, 20 years, and you just don`t happen to have any children, you get a
little left out. You got completely left out.
So, there`s a little bit of that. But, yes, I think overall, the
whole community sees what he`s done and they`re all incredibly excited.
MADDOW: On the other side of it, in terms of critics of this, I know
the Republicans have talked about how mad they are about this, about all
the different things they`re going to try to do to stop him and to stop
this policy. Are there concrete signs that they are doing something?
GOMEZ: Well, I think you`ve laid it out pretty welt. Let` let`s
forget about the idea of impeachment. That`s just – you need two-thirds
of the Senate for that. That`s not going to happen.
A lawsuit is incredibly difficult, and for Congress to sue the White
House, that`s incredibly difficult, probably not going to happen.
Congress has learned the last couple of days how difficult it is to
defund this process. So, going the appropriations route is pretty
difficult, as well. And as you said, passing a huge comprehensive nuanced
stuff comprehensive bill through this Congress is going to be very, very
But there`s one thing they can do. They can come back when the new
Congress sits in January and pass a border security bill.
Think about what happens if they pass that and send it to the
president. If he signs that, you know, he`s going to enrage Democrats,
he`s going to enrage all of these immigrants and he`s going to be almost
back at square one. But if he doesn`t sign, Republicans get to say hey,
look, we tried to work with him. This is the most important thing for a
lot of Americans to secure that border. It`s our number one priority, we
offered this as a first step and he walked away from it.
So, it puts him in an incredibly uncomfortable situation, and that`s
something that they`re already debating, and then, there`s going to be a
hearing on the House border security bill in December.
MADDOW: Although – I mean, we have to see what`s going to be in that
bill. I got to say, with everything that he`s been willing to shift in
terms of resources down to the border with the number of people he`s been
willing to deport, with the additional resources at the border that he just
put in what he announced last night, I`m not sure he`d be so shy about
I mean, yes, I think Democrats give him some pushback on it. But not
more than he`s endured already. That will be fascinating to see if that`s
where they go.
MADDOW: I think the other side of Republican politics on this, of
course, is now we have started the runoff to 2016. How do you think that
Republicans are going to deal with this in the primaries?
GOMEZ: Well, this is incredibly difficult to them. One of the small
tweaks that they did in this thing is, previously, people who were
protected from deportation under the president`s plan, they received two-
year reprieves. Under this, they`re going to get three-year reprieves.
So, assuming that these start being passed sometime in 2015, their
period of protection is going to run well into the next administration.
So, that makes this an issue in the GOP primary that`s going to start any
day now, right?
They`re going to be – they`re going to have to answer the question,
are you going to revoke that status. Are you going to extend it? Are you
– they`re going to be forced to deal with this issue.
And as you pointed out, as President Obama is running around talking
about how many people he saved, the Republicans, maybe like we saw on 2012,
are going to be left arguing over who`s going to be tougher on undocumented
immigrants? Who`s going to uphold it? And that`s going to create a very
big squabble that I think a lot of Democrats are going to be happy to see.
MADDOW: Well, yes, the fascinating thing about it is it`s not going
to be a hypothetical, because it`s not going to be about hypothetical
people. It`s about identifiable, named people who you can meet who will be
affected, who will be the individuals that they have to decide about. And
it will be something that will be within the power of the next president to
decide. That`s going to be a very, very interesting fight.
Alan Gomez, immigration reporter for “USA Today” – Alan, it`s always
great to have you here. Thank you very much.
GOMEZ: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Lots ahead tonight, including the most unexpected
thing you could possibly imagine me saying about Washington right now.
Lots to come tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: If you have been hearing rumors that something big is going
to go down tonight, I`ll tell you just ahead why you have been hearing
those rumors, what you should believe about them, but also what you
Stay with us. Lots to come tonight.
MADDOW: So we do something here called the Friday night news dump.
People who watch the show Skype into the show and you can answer questions
about – if you can answer questions about the news this week, basically
win junk from us. You don`t win anything that great. It`s totally just an
excuse for me to meet people because I`m a lonely person.
It`s turned out to be fun, though. We`re going to be doing that later
tonight, the Friday night news dump is what we call it.
But tonight, there is a real Friday night news dump in the real news.
It`s a special one for the Benghazi conspiracy theorists in your life,
particularly those that are going to be annoying you over Thanksgiving
So, far, there have been six U.S. government investigations into what
happened in Benghazi. There have been five criminal investigation and a
State Department investigation, all into Benghazi, they have all concluded
that Benghazi attack that killed four Americans, it was a terrible thing
and it was a tragedy, but it wasn`t a conspiracy.
House Republicans have insisted, though, that it is a conspiracy.
They have appointed a special select committee to investigate the
conspiracy because they are sure there must be one. President Obama must
have wanted those Americans to be killed. Hillary Clinton somehow ensured
that they would be killed. It`s all some sort of crazy cover up.
Well, tonight, every quietly, the House Intelligence Committee, which
is run by the Republicans, because the Republicans run the House, House
Intelligence Committee just released its report on Benghazi and,
apparently, they`re in on the conspiracy, too.
Quote, “A two-year investigation by the Republican-controlled House
Intelligence Committee has found that the CIA and the military acted
properly in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in
Benghazi, and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees.”
Quote, “Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark
conspiracies, the investigation again by the Republican-controlled House
Intelligence Committee determined that there was no intelligence failure,
no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military
rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to
Syria”, which is the Rand Paul crazy conspiracy theory about Benghazi.”
So, what do you do when you go searching for a smoking gun and you
instead find it`s a starter`s pistol and there`s nothing there? Well,
then, you release your report with fanfare on the Friday before
Thanksgiving week. That is a legit Friday night news dump from the
Turns out, Benghazi not a scandal. Shhh!
MADDOW: In the middle of this crazy news week, this might be the
craziest news of all. President Obama signed a bill. I know, right?
There should not be that big a deal. Presidents sign bills. It`s supposed
to be a big part of what they do.
But this Congress has been famously, historically, epically non-
productive. So, it was an unusual thing therefore this week when President
Obama gathered the sponsors of a bill that was about child care and he
actually got to sign the bill into law.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I love signing bills. I like doing it more often. What do
you say, guys?
Yes, it`s good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: It`s good. It`s good for Congress to pass a bill sometimes.
This lame duck Congress of ours is now done, working for this whole
month. And then they have a grand total of eight workdays scheduled for
the eight workdays of December.
And they will swear in the new Congress in January. They don`t have
much time left for doing much of anything.
But there is this one thing that might maybe possibly happen. I
almost feel like not saying anything in case I jinx it somehow. And you
definitely haven`t heard about this in the national press. But both the
House and the Senate held hearings in this week on a bipartisan bill to
help prevent suicide among military veterans. It`s called the Clay Hunt
Suicide Prevention Act. It`s named after Clay Hunt, a marine corporal from
outside Houston, Texas.
Corporal Hunt serves in Iraq, where he was shot through the wrist by a
sniper. He recovered from that wound and became a sniper himself and
served a second tour in Afghanistan. After he left the Marines, Clay Hunt
got involved in helping other veterans, he biked in the Ride to Recovery
charity races in California and in Florida.
Clay Hunt pushed for the other guys, literally, in some cases. He had
been diagnosed with PTSD. We know from his own words that he took comfort
in trying to make the world better.
This is a great picture of him here. This is after the huge
earthquake in Haiti in 2009. Clay Hunt joined a group of veterans who went
to Haiti on their own after the earthquake to try to help.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLAY HUNT, VETERAN: I`ve been in two third world countries where
everybody second that I`ve walked through, I had to worry about my own
safety before I could worry about doing good and helping others. It was
the complete opposite down in Haiti. I was able to walk through a rebel-
strewn, just destroyed city. It looked like it had been carpet bombed.
And I didn`t have to worry once about my safety. I was there to do a
job, to help people. I have a renewed faith in humanity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Marine Corporal Clay Hunt worked you saw him working there.
He worked in Afghanistan. He worked in Afghanistan. When he came back, he
worked on Capitol Hill, lobbying Congress on behalf of veterans. After the
earthquake in Haiti, he worked in Haiti.
And it was a great shock and a tremendous sadness among his family and
friends and fellow activists when they got the news that he had killed
himself in March, 2011. But they have put their grief to use.
In the Senate this week, Clay Hunt`s mother Susan Selke, she testified
about her son and about this bill that bears her son`s name. This bill
that, honestly, they really might pass in this lame duck session of
Congress. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUSAN SELKE, MOTHER OF MARINE CP. CLAY HUNT: I constantly voiced
concerns about the care he was receiving, both in terms of the challenges
he faced with scheduling appointments, as well as the treatment he was
receiving for PTS, which consisted primarily medication. He received
counseling only as far as brief discussions regarding whether the
medication he was prescribed was working or not. If it was not, he would
be given a new medication.
Clay used to say, “I`m a guinea pig for drugs. They`ll put me on one
thing, I`ll have side effects, and then they`ll put me on something else.”
It wasn`t until March 15th that Clay was finally able to see a
psychiatrist at the Houston V.A. Medical Center. But after the
appointment, Clay called me on his way home and said, “Mom, I can want go
back there.” Just two weeks after his appointment with the psychiatrist at
the Houston V.A. Medical Center, Clay took his own life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: This bill that`s moving in the lame duck Congress right now,
it`s what veteran groups think would most help bring down the number of
suicides among veterans. Twenty-two veterans a day are committing suicide.
They want more psychiatrists in the V.A., independent, outside evaluation,
to make veterans and Defense Department suicide programs better programs.
It has a plan that they think would stop the merry-go-around of medications
that vets get put on they say by the handful to instead focus on what
This bill is not the most expensive bill in the world, certainly not
getting the most attention in the world, but it gets at this terrible
problem in all the ways the veterans groups think would most help them.
And here`s the thing about this, politically. Look at the sponsors on
this in the Senate. You never see that. This actually is bipartisan, for
real. And the same bill in the House is also bipartisan. It has a huge
number of cosponsors in the House from both parties and this thing is
getting hearings, and the hearings are happening at the same time.
I`m telling you, I don`t want to jinx it by saying it out loud. But
very quietly, there are eight days left in this lame duck session, and this
might happen. Even in this terrible Congress that never does anything,
this might actually happen.
And if it does happen, it will be because the veterans groups made it
happen. Veterans and their families, Clay Hunt`s parents, here with
members of IAVA, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Here they
are this week lobbying White House officials for the Clay Hunt bill.
They might actually get this thing done. It`s not getting a lot of
attention, but watch this space.
MADDOW: This is just a note in terms of things to expect in the news.
When a grand jury is considering whether or not to bring criminal charges
against someone, their work is secret. I mean, sometimes, there are leaks
and that`s illegal. But, basically, you`re not supposed to know what`s
going on with a grand jury or whether they`re going to indict someone or
when they`re going to indict someone until they do it.
That said, there are sometimes signs, and there are signs right now
that at least elected officials and local officials are getting prepared
for the grand jury that`s sitting in St. Louis County Missouri to announce
the results of their decision very soon about whether or not they`re going
to indict a police officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in
Again, we do not know when the grand jury will announce its decision
or what that decision will be. But the mayor of St. Louis held a press
conference today to explain what preparations are being made to try to
ensure that any potential protests after the announcement are peaceful.
After the shooting of Michael Brown, when there were violent
confrontations between police and protesters, Attorney General Eric Holder,
you may remember, visited Ferguson at a really key time, to try to calm
tensions. Today, Attorney General Eric Holder released this video. He
didn`t mention Ferguson by name, but it – this video sort of touted the
power of protests that remain peaceful, called for law enforcement that
calms confrontations instead of escalates them.
Nobody knows when this announcement is going to happen. And nobody
knows whether there will be an indictment or not, when the announcement
does happen. But the St. Louis mayor told Chris Hayes last hour that the
major expects the announcement from this grand jury in coming days.
So, again, we don`t know for sure, but it could be as early as this
weekend. And that`s why tensions are so high.
Watch this space.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS: Here`s the deal on it, Jose. It is a
JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS, ACTIVIST: Yes.
O`REILLY: But it may not be a just move because you and the other
people here illegally don`t deserve to be here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You don`t deserve to be here.
Jose Antonio Vargas getting the full FOX News treatment last night.
Jose, as you know, is a journalist, part of the team who won the
Pulitzer Prize. Jose Antonio Vargas surprised everybody when he came out a
couple of years ago and told the world that even though he has been in this
country since he was 12 and had this amazing career as a journalist, he is
Well, last night, Jose went on FOX News and told their 8:00 host
there, told him with tears in his eyes that what President Obama had just
announced last night meant that he would be able to see his own mother for
the first time since he was a little boy. And Bill O`Reilly told him in
response that you don`t deserve to be here.
Jose Antonio Vargas is a strong guy. I do not worry about the
thickness of his skin at all, on something like this. He was just here at
MSNBC with Chris Hayes this past hour.
But the way they are talking about immigrants to this country right
now on FOX and otherwise in the right wing media, there are moments when it
takes your breath away. And it`s humanity or lack thereof.
The last time we had a big reform of the immigration process in this
country was more than 25 years ago, when President Ronald Reagan was there.
Ronald Reagan made some changes to enforcement in the immigration system by
executive action the way President Obama is doing now. But President
Reagan also changed the law, as well. He signed a big amnesty law. And
when President Reagan`s amnesty law went into effect, NBC News in 1987 had
kind of a Jose Antonio Vargas coming out moment with one of their own NBC
It was a huge surprise to everybody and it was kind of an amazing
story at the time when it happened. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRYANT GUMBEL, NBC NEWS: Tuesday marked the first opportunity for
illegal aliens to seek amnesty under new federal law. We covered that
story here on “Today” and yesterday talked with an INS official in Chicago.
But when officials threw opened their doors and illegals marched in, all of
a sudden, NBC were stunned to learn that one of our NBC News
correspondents, James Makawa, was there not to cover the story, but to seek
James in our Chicago bureau this morning. Good morning, James.
JAMES MAKAWA, NBC NEWS: Good morning, Bryant.
GUMBEL: You`re a native of what was once Rhodesia. When did you come
here and how did you manage to stay?
MAKAWA: Well, I came here in 1977, came here as a student, obviously
fleeing the war that was going on at the time, because guerrillas were
going from house-to-house in some of the remote areas, recruiting
youngsters like myself literally at gunpoint. And so, I came here as a
student and overstayed my visa, which ran out when I got out of college.
GUMBEL: How real was your fear of being detected then?
MAKAWA: Oh goodness graciousness. I mean, you constantly live in
fear from day to day. You never knew if you`re going to wake up one day
and find an immigration van waiting outside your apartment. It was hell,
if I may say.
GUMBEL: What was it like marching into the office yesterday?
MAKAWA: Let me tell you, Bryant, it – I almost broke down in tears,
because I was – this burden that was finally lifted off of me. I could
finally talk about my status openly. I felt like I was – I could be like
everybody else. And it just felt good. It felt great, if I may say.
GUMBEL: Well, James, we`ve said it before, but it takes on new
meaning this morning, welcome.
MAKAWA: Thank you very much, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was James Makawa in 1987, on “The Today Show” surprising
everyone where he worked, at NBC as a correspondent, that all along in his
NBC career, as long as they had known him, he had been undocumented. He
was able to come out of his status and get legal only when President Ronald
Reagan signed into law the last major change in our immigration system, the
last major change before the changes that President Obama announced in
primetime from the White House last night.
Joining us now for the interview is James Makawa, former NBC News
correspondent. He`s now the cofounder and CEO of Africa HD.
Mr. Makawa, I`ve been so looking forward to talking to you. Thanks
for being with us.
MAKAWA: Thank you, Rachel, for having me. Glad to be here.
MADDOW: When you see your younger self, do you have the same feeling
that all of us on TV do? Which is, oh, my God, I can`t believe I used to
look like that?
MAKAWA: I used to have hair back then. So, but as long as that
twinkle is still in my eye, I think I`m going to be OK.
MADDOW: Very good.
Well, let me ask you about that time. Before that amnesty law from
President Reagan, how difficult had it been for you to keep this a secret
for so long. You can see the evidence surprise in Brian Gumbel, in Tom
Brokaw, in everybody else who covered this on the air. But they had no
MAKAWA: Well, nobody had any idea. And, you know, Rachel, I was on
tremendous personal pressure, but this is not anything you could share with
your friends. You couldn`t share it with you family. This could not leak
But at the same time, too, you could imagine the pressure on one`s
shoulders when you`re trying to do a job and you had this cloud, you know,
hanging over your – you know, hanging over you. I really feel for the
people that are dealing with that right now.
MADDOW: As – in your work as a correspondent for NBC, did you ever
have close calls in terms of travel or anything else that you were doing
where simply the work that you were doing put you at risk of exposure?
MAKAWA: Oh, absolutely. I actually had a couple of calls. I
remember one call, I was in Chicago, working out of Chicago bureau at the
time, and there was a big tornado that came through Edmonton, Canada, and I
was the only correspondent to cover that story. And I get a call, you
know, late at night, you`ve got to be on a private jet and head to
Edmonton. And I`m going oh, my goodness. How in the world do I get back
into the United States? I had to cover the story.
I went out there, did the job, but I didn`t have a private jet coming
back. I had to take commercial. But those were the days where actually
one could actually get by using a driver`s license to get back into the
country, and that`s exactly what I did. You couldn`t do that today. But
that`s what happened.
MADDOW: When President Reagan changed the law and you applied for
legal status and you were able to come out at work and let that story be
told, how did that change the trajectory of your life and your career?
What happened for you there after?
MAKAWA: Well, it was a big weight off of my shoulders. I mean, my
passion in life was to work in television, was to become a journalist, was
to understand television production, marketing, and all of those things
that make up this incredible medium, and this powerful medium. And, you
know, NBC afforded me the opportunity to do that.
So, when that amnesty opportunity came along, it just opened up my
world incredibly. And it gave me the opportunity to pursue other things
that put me in a situation where I said I`m going to be able to make a
difference back in Africa. Not only in my community in the United States,
but back in Africa as well. That`s what that did. And that`s the journey
I`m on today.
MADDOW: The ability to travel. The ability to – or I heard that
over and over and over again, particularly from people who are high-
achieving or have done a lot in their careers and at a point where you`d
expect they`d be able to do some international travel whether it`s for work
or just for family ties or anything, that ability that you don`t have to
hide within the borders of the United States because you can`t legally
cross a border, I hear that over and over again.
Obviously, that`s central to what you`re doing now in Africa HD.
MAKAWA: Yes, my story not unique in the sense – you know, I`m an
immigrant, one of millions who are here on the specific mission, with a
specific vision. We work hard. We`re not – you know, we`re not sucking
the oxygen out of the United States. If anything, we`re here to add value.
MADDOW: James Makawa, an American immigrant and NBC News
correspondent who was granted amnesty under President Reagan, and that
story was told by NBC as part of their coverage of that last amnesty, now,
the CEO of Africa HD – Mr. Makawa, thank you so much for being with us.
Fascinating to hear your story, sir. Great to see you.
MAKAWA: Well, thank you. Thank you very much for having me.
MADDOW: It is amazing to see his personal story, right? Of course it
has to end with, and now he`s the CEO of a company and is a job creator and
he`s doing all this international work, right?
I mean, you look at immigrants as an economic engine in our country,
not just now, but forever, and the idea that people would talk about
expanded immigration opportunities as an economic drag on our nation is so
counterfactual, it`s almost ridiculous. But it`s fascinating.
Anyway, it`s Friday. Our still highly experimental news quiz game
show thingy is back. As this was an unusually rich week for current
events, my expectations are trending upward for that.
Stay ahead – stay with us. That`s ahead. Lots to come.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: And one of those happy to see this day come is
NBC News correspondent, James Makawa, who works out of our Chicago office.
Much to our surprise, James today was online, applying for amnesty.
None of us knew that he has been an illegal alien since his student
visa ran out. Makawa came here in 1977 to attend high school and to escape
the war at home. It was then called Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.
After graduation from college, Makawa began a promising broadcast
journalism career, never lying about his status, but never really telling
anyone either. He has been paying taxes and Social Security all this time
and worrying that some day he would be caught.
Now, he says, he`s relieved to be able to begin the process of getting
amnesty to becoming a legal American.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Happy Friday! Here`s to making it through another long week
of surprisingly interesting news.
Plop. It`s Friday night news dump time. I`m starting to look forward
to this, which is very dangerous.
Our producer, Julia Nutter, is here tonight.
JULIA NUTTER, TRMS PRODUCER: Hi. How`s it going?
So, who`s going to be playing tonight?
NUTTER: Tonight, we`re going to have Samir Lakhani on the show.
NUTTER: He hails from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He`s a college
student studying environmental policy. He wants to do international
development and he has worked and lived in Cambodia.
MADDOW: Wow, Samir, you`re a complicated guy, nice to meet you.
SAMIR LAKHANI, PITTSBURGH, PA: Extremely complicated. I can`t keep
up with myself. Good to meet you.
MADDOW: It`s really good to meet you.
If you are a college student, does that mean you are home yet or are
you still at college? Are you in term?
LAKHANI: Yes, I am in term. Yes.
MADDOW: Are you supposed to be in like finals? I mean, is this –
LAKHANI: Right, well, OK. Finals is coming up. I should have been
studying for those finals, but I was studying for this, you see?
MADDOW: All right. So if you need a note to explain your grades, I
am a doctor, technically.
LAKHANI: Please. Your e-mail would be great.
So I think you know how this goes. I`ll ask you three questions, if
you get two or more right, Julia, what will Samir win?
NUTTER: This very fancy, mini cocktail shaker.
MADDOW: Tiny cocktail shaker.
We also need to bring in the voice of – the disembodied voice of
Steve Benen of “Maddow Blog” and he`s the person who will bring the correct
answers in this game.
Disembodied voice of Steve Benen, are you there?
STEVE BENEN, MADDOW BLOG: I am. Good evening, Samir. Good evening,
MADDOW: Good evening.
LAKHANI: God of the blog. Good to meet you, Steve.
MADDOW: He is the god of the blog. Blog is my copilot.
All right. Are you ready for your first question?
LAKHANI: I am.
MADDOW: On Monday, we talked about Pope Francis and the surprising
technology that Pope Francis uses to communicate with his top American
adviser, a cardinal named Sean O`Malley. What is the preferred method of
communication between the pope and this American cardinal? Is it, A,
texting, B, Google hangout chats, C, typewritten notes, like, written with
a type writer, not computer printer, or, D, faxing?
LAKHANI: D, faxing.
MADDOW: Steve, what is the answer?
BENEN: Let`s check the segment from Monday`s show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most people think texting is quicker than
CARDINAL SEAN O`MALLEY, CATHOLIC CHURCH: Well, the pope and I aren`t
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Not into texting. They prefer the fax.
LAKHANI: Can you imagine him with Google Glasses or an Apple Watch or
MADDOW: Now that we`ve seen this pope do selfies, I think that we are
not very off from anything like that.
MADDOW: Although Google Glass might be too creepy for the future.
All right. You have to get two right to get the prize. You`ve got
one right already. Let`s go to question two.
On Tuesday`s show, we talked about House Republicans picking new
committee chairs for the upcoming Congress and how once again only one
committee will be run by a woman. What committee will Congresswoman
Candice Miller get to chair in the new Congress?
Is it the Committee on Administration, the Committee on Homeland
Security, the Education Committee, or the Rules Committee?
LAKHANI: Administration. Also known as the Senate cafeteria, right?
MADDOW: Steve, did Samir get that right?
BENEN: He did. This was a tough one, because Miller wanted to be on
Homeland Security, but she got Administration. The correct answer is “A,”
and Samir was right.
MADDOW: Excellent. Well done. Yes, that was the great thing, is that
last – when they got control of the House, she wanted to be chair of
Homeland Security, and she said, no, you can`t have that, we`re giving that
to a man. We`re going to move to the committee in charge of the cafeteria,
so you can be in charge of that. And they kept her this year.
LAKHANI: Everybody wants that job.
MADDOW: Yes, exactly. Well, you get free food on Wednesdays.
LAKHANI: There you go.
MADDOW: All right. Last one, on Wednesday, we talked about the
historical context of the major broadcast networks refusing to air
President Obama`s immigration speech last night. Who was president the
first time the broadcast networks refused to carry a prime-time
presidential press conference? Was that Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George
H.W. Bush, or Bill Clinton?
LAKHANI: I believe this is a trick question. I`m going to go with
MADDOW: Steve, do you have the answer for this?
BENEN: Let`s check the segment from Wednesday`s show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: In 1992, when Poppy Bush was on his way to losing his re-
election effort, the networks all said no for the first time ever, to
covering a presidential press conference, because they said, what President
Bush was going to do in that press conference was basically hold a campaign
event and they felt that they had no obligation to defer to him on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BENEN: So the correct answer was, “C,” and Samir got it right.
MADDOW: Julia, do the math, does Samir win the prize?
NUTTER: Yes, he gets to take home this cocktail shaker.
MADDOW: Samir, congratulations. You not only got two right, you got
three right, which I think means by the rules that I make a little bit
MADDOW: I think that means you get both the cocktail shaker and
something that we scrounge up from around the office that you might find to
be of value but we can`t promise –
LAKHANI: Oh, I want that t-shirt with the fade-away messages.
MADDOW: We haven`t given away the anti-Nazi t-shirt. Oh, we don`t
have it anymore?
We`ll see what we can find you, Samir. Don`t worry. You`ll hate it.
Samir, thank you for watching the show this week. Now, go study. I
really appreciate it. Thanks, man.
LAKHANI: Thank you, take care.
MADDOW: Now, if any of you out there think you have what it takes to
survive the Friday night news dump and the possibility of winning a teeny,
tiny cocktail shaker and some crap from our office, head over to
MaddowBlog.com to learn how to apply.
You really could win a cheap thing and something we don`t want
But before you can do that – prison.
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