News Brief: Florida School Shooting, Immigration Plans Stall, Olympics

Feb 16, 2018
Originally published on February 16, 2018 10:25 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Several vigils are planned for today and tomorrow in the Parkland, Fla., area as that community and really the whole nation find ways to cope with Wednesday's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There was a vigil last night that drew thousands of people to an amphitheater. They were there to honor the 17 people who lost their lives in this massacre. Some of the people there chanted in protest.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) No more guns, no more guns, no more guns.

MARTIN: No more guns, no more guns, they're saying there.

GREENE: I want to bring in NPR's Greg Allen, who is in South Florida. He's been covering this. Hi, Greg.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Hi, David.

GREENE: So could we start with the victims here? Who was killed in this massacre?

ALLEN: Well, we got the list of names officially released yesterday from the Broward Sheriff's Office. And it's a list that we've kind of started to understand, get to know many of these names in recent days as we've talked to the students and people at the school. It includes three teachers and administrators. Football coach Aaron Feis - we've heard a lot about him - also geography teacher Scott Biegel - those are both men who students who've talked about them say that their actions saved lives on Wednesday. And they're considered heroes.

It's a list that also includes many freshmen. Of course, this was in a building that was used mostly by freshmen. Last night at a memorial service that we just heard from, Jaime Guttenberg's father spoke about how she'd light up a room when she came in. It also includes Nicholas Dworet. He's a senior. He was headed to college next year on a swimming scholarship. Also you have a national merit semifinalist, kids who were on color guard, who played soccer, junior ROTC. It's just a very sad list.

GREENE: Yeah, it sounds tough to go through that list. So what are we learning right now from authorities and their investigation into the gunman?

ALLEN: Well, in documents we've had released, investigators say that Cruz has confessed to the shootings after he was read his Miranda rights. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel yesterday released a whole timeline for the shooting. It began shortly after 2 o'clock Wednesday when Cruz took an Uber car to the school. He was carrying his AR-15 rifle in a soft case. He entered the school through a stairwell. He went to all three floors of the school during his rampage. He wasn't there that long. He then dropped his weapon and backpack and ran from the school, blending in with other students who were fleeing after the shooting. But investigators knew who he was fairly quickly. They identified him almost - very, very quickly from students, and so they went looking for him. He went to a nearby Walmart, where he bought a drink at a Subway and stayed there for a while. And then he eventually headed home where he was picked up by a police officer who was looking for him.

GREENE: You know, I'm just struck in this shooting, Greg. I mean, you know, politicians will decide when it's right to start talking about proposing, you know, new legislation talking about gun laws in this country. But we're hearing survivors of the shooting who are pressing for some kind of action. That happened almost immediately.

ALLEN: Yes. It's really been interesting about that. We've had a lot of elected officials, of course, here weighing in - senators, the president. President Trump is coming in a few days, we believe, with Governor Scott, who's been here since the shooting. Both of those men have talked about the need to do something to protect the safety of students, but they aren't talking about gun control. They're really focusing on keeping the guns out of the hands of people with mental illness. But meanwhile, reporters have been hearing from students who've been talking about the need to do something about guns themselves. And we heard from Robert Runcie, the superintendent, saying that if we don't do something in this generation, he's sure that they'll do it in the next generation.

GREENE: NPR's Greg Allen reporting from South Florida - Greg, thank you.

ALLEN: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: OK. The Senate is opening debate on immigration, or they did try and open debate on immigration - didn't really go anywhere.

MARTIN: Yeah. They tried for several days. It was supposed to be a whole week of this kind of exceptional situation of open debate, a real test of bipartisanship that appears to now have failed. Various proposals were out there, and they all fell short of 60 votes. Here's how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MITCH MCCONNELL: I thought our friends across the aisle would jump at this opportunity to fulfill what they say is their top priority. But they just couldn't take yes for an answer.

MARTIN: There is plenty that both sides refuse to say yes to, and lawmakers are out of the office next week. So what does all this mean for immigrants who are protected by DACA? That's what this was supposed to be all about. That program expires March 5.

GREENE: All right. NPR congressional correspondent Scott Detrow is here. Hey, Scott.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Morning, David.

GREENE: All right. So that's Mitch McConnell's take on what went down. What exactly happened in the Senate yesterday?

DETROW: So three different approaches to immigration came up - some narrow, some broad - all three failed. There had been some momentum building for a bipartisan approach put together by moderate senators from both parties. This was that group that was meeting in Susan Collins office with the talking stick that we had heard a lot about. But yesterday, the White House aggressively came out against this approach. It issued a veto threat, and that approach ended up coming up six votes short. It's notable here that while everything failed, the measure supported by President Trump - this is something that would have affected legal immigration as well - that got the least support. Only 39 senators voted for it.

GREENE: Oh, that's interesting. And this is not the first time that President Trump has pretty forcefully, you know, ended the chance for a bipartisan solution with an idea that he didn't like very much. So now we're coming up on this deadline that the White House set for March 5 for DACA to end, which sounds simple, but we have these two judges - right? - who have temporarily blocked the administration from ending the program on that date. So explain what all that means.

DETROW: You know, it's confusing. The administration immigration officials are taking those rulings seriously and saying that, as of right now, things stand as they did before President Trump started to end this. So if you're in DACA, if your status comes up for renewal, you can still submit that. They'll still process it. It goes forward. But there's a lot of uncertainty. You are in a position then where you have no idea whether or not a new ruling will change things. And that's something Democrats are pointing out, saying that we can't have this go past March 5. We should have done this months ago.

MARTIN: Can I ask a question here?

DETROW: Yeah.

MARTIN: This was something that was supposed to have all kinds of support, from Republicans and Democrats, the DACA issue. Can't they just tease that out and vote on it separately? Why doesn't that happen?

DETROW: Well, because the White House and Republican leaders say they're not going to vote on that without some sort of border security measure as well. And I think there is a path. There is a path that would get a majority vote on both sides to deal with DACA and deal with just border security.

MARTIN: Yeah.

DETROW: But in recent weeks, the White House has said they have no interest in doing that, and they will only go forward and support something that also makes changes to legal immigration. And Democrats say they're just never going to vote for something...

GREENE: So it's really been President Trump who has been pushing those changes to legal immigration.

DETROW: Yeah, I think that's fair to say.

GREENE: I mean, not necessarily a lot of Republicans in Congress.

DETROW: President Trump and White House advisers - Stephen Miller, his top immigration adviser, has played a big role in this.

GREENE: So could this debate be resurrected somehow, especially if the deadline gets pushed?

DETROW: Expect to hear more about something that Arizona Senator Jeff Flake first teed up - a one-year extension that would punt this all to next year. This is a Congress that loves doing short-term spending resolutions, so that might be the only way out of this.

GREENE: A short-term immigration solution it sounds like.

DETROW: Yeah.

GREENE: NPR's Scott Detrow - thanks, Scott.

DETROW: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: All right. So we're one week into the Winter Olympics - a little more than a week to go here.

MARTIN: Oh, man. That means it's already halfway over.

GREENE: I know.

MARTIN: That's horrible.

GREENE: That's sad. It just started.

MARTIN: But pretty good time to check in with our team in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

GREENE: Yes. And NPR special correspondent Melissa Block is there. Hi, Melissa.

MELISSA BLOCK, BYLINE: Hey, how are you doing?

GREENE: I'm good - not having as much fun as you are covering the Olympics, although....

BLOCK: Yeah, it's been pretty fun.

GREENE: I can imagine, although disappointing results for Team USA at the moment. What's happening?

BLOCK: Yeah, not a good time. Let's start with alpine skiing. Mikaela Shiffrin, who was widely predicted to win gold in slalom - it's her best event - she did not make the podium at all. She came in fourth. In fairness, we should say, she missed bronze only by eight hundredths of a second, but she didn't make the podium. She said she got sick, that she vomited just minutes before her first of two runs. And now the question is, can she shake it off? Can - she does have at least one other race, maybe two races to come.

Let's turn over to men's figure skating, where 18-year-old Nathan Chen, who everybody predicted was heading for a gold medal - he was the U.S. team's best hope - and now it's pretty clear there's going to be no medal for him at all. He is known for his jumping. He lands quadruple jumps all the time - four rotations. Not this time - he fell on his first jump. He stumbled. He looked totally out of sorts there on the ice, and afterward, he just looked completely stunned.

GREENE: Who's going to get this going in the right direction now? I mean, there's all this talk about Adam Rippon, who's been just the talk at the moment. Does he have a chance of a medal?

BLOCK: Talk in the U.S. He mathematically does not have a chance at a medal. He finished seventh in the short program. He's 24 points back. But he, you know, is having a great time out there, and he's a lot of fun to watch. The problem with him is he does not have quadruple jumps, and he will tell you that. He says right now the name of the game is as many quads as possible. I don't have any. He is a beautiful skater to watch, super fun, and he did have a great time lying backward on the ice when he was all done. But the top skater today was the defending Olympic champion from Japan, Yuzuru Hanyu.

GREENE: So who - I mean, if I'm rooting for Team USA, can I get excited about something this weekend?

BLOCK: Well, there...

MARTIN: Come on, Melissa.

GREENE: Come on, Melissa. Help us out.

BLOCK: I know. I'm such a downer. I'm so sorry. There is the men's free skate long program.

MARTIN: USA, USA.

BLOCK: It's always fun to watch. I mean, hey, you know, you can cheer for another country - doesn't have to be our skaters (laughter).

GREENE: True, true, and I do, yeah. You know, I was just wondering if...

BLOCK: There is that.

MARTIN: I don't know (laughter).

BLOCK: You got to the women's super-G coming up. That's an amped up, faster version of a giant slalom - not quite as fast as downhill. That's great. And biathlon - biathlon is always really, really fun to watch.

MARTIN: OK. I can get behind biathlon.

GREENE: Good.

BLOCK: Totally.

GREENE: And it's not all about the medals. I mean, you always have these lovely little observations when you're covering these games.

BLOCK: Well, it's just - everywhere you turn, there's just something amazing going on. So watching Yuzuru Hanyu today, the defending champion in men's figure skating, his mascot, his good luck charm, is a Pooh Bear. So all around the ice arena, you saw fans wearing Pooh ears and Pooh capes. And at the end of his skate, there's this shower of hundreds and hundreds of stuffed Pooh Bears that fans are throwing onto the ice. It was just covered with Pooh Bears.

GREENE: I love that.

MARTIN: Raining Pooh, raining Pooh.

BLOCK: Apparently, he donates them - raining Poohs.

GREENE: Love that. NPR's Melissa Block in Pyeongchang, South Korea - thanks, Melissa.

BLOCK: You bet.

(SOUNDBITE OF RE:PLUS' "EVERLASTING TRUTH") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.