• Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Biden administration faces backlash over immigration policies

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

A large influx of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border is forcing President Biden to rely on some controversial Trump-era policies. Now, he's facing criticism from both Republicans and Democrats. Politico immigration reporter Sabrina Rodriguez joins CBSN's Elaine Quijano to discuss the latest.

Video Transcript

ELAINE QUIJANO: The Biden administration is facing backlash from both Democrats and Republicans over its immigration policies. Since January, a large influx of migrants have entered the country at the US-Mexico border. This has forced President Biden to rely on some controversial Trump-era practices while officials draft new legislation to address the situation. But the administration has remained relatively quiet on what exactly it's working out.

For more on this, let's bring in Sabrina Rodriguez. Sabrina is an immigration reporter for Politico. Welcome, Sabrina. So we have not heard a lot of details about the president's plans to overhaul immigration. Why might that be?

SABRINA RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, well, you know, the Biden administration is finding itself now in this sensitive spot of Biden on the campaign trail promised that he was going to undo a lot of the Trump administration's immigration legacy, but at the same time, they don't want to promote people coming to the border at the moment. So right now Biden has said we're undoing all these things that the Trump administration did. We can't tell you all the details on what we're doing, because we don't want to send the wrong message, but we swear we're doing it. So right now it's kind of this situation of figuring out what the best policy will be going forward. And the Biden administration's message is, now is not the time for migrants to [INAUDIBLE] how they're going to roll out these policies that can take a significant amount of time.

ELAINE QUIJANO: So Sabrina, what has the Biden administration done so far? And what other promises remain?

SABRINA RODRIGUEZ: So far, we've seen on the first day of the Biden administration, they announced what they would like their comprehensive immigration reform bill to look like. And since then, it's been introduced in Congress, in the House and in the Senate. The reality is that it's challenging to pass anything on the Hill at this point.

And seeing how sensitive of a subject it has been historically, and especially after the Trump administration, it's going to be challenging to pass it. So Biden, in the meantime, has signed several executive orders, some involving reuniting families that were separated by the Trump administration, as well as starting to set the message and set the pace for things on asylum as well as legal immigration. But a lot of it, at this point, is setting up reviews and asking for plans and recommendations from his administration, which will take a-- will take time.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Well, you reported that in January more than 5,700 children arrived at the US border alone. More arrivals are expected in the months to come. Sabrina, what is contributing to this uptick?

SABRINA RODRIGUEZ: It's absolutely this change of administration that we've seen. The Biden administration, the way that they are handling unaccompanied children has been different than the Trump administration did. At this point, if-- the vast majority of migrants arriving at the border are being turned away. They are immediately being sent back under a Trump-era pandemic rule that because of the pandemic would send people back immediately.

But with unaccompanied children, the Biden administration decided they didn't want to apply the same policy, so they are taking in these children. But the reality is that there are constraints and capacity, especially as they're trying to observe certain social distancing protocols and handle things in a different way than the Trump administration did. So it's-- at this point, we're seeing an uptick, and it's going to continue. I mean, it's expected that as we head towards this summer, there will continue to be a significantly larger number of migrants arriving.

ELAINE QUIJANO: So some progressive Democrats like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have slammed the Biden administration for putting unaccompanied migrant children in detention facilities. What exactly is the criticism? And do they have suggestions on where these children should be housed instead?

SABRINA RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, the Biden administration has come out forcefully to defend itself after the criticism that we saw last week from progressives like Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and a lot of immigrant advocates saying this was never right under the Trump administration, under previous administrations, and it's not OK, and it's not acceptable under this administration. What they want to see is a more, and I quote, as the Biden administration has sold it, "a fair and humane immigration system" that doesn't put children in these kinds of shelters. The Biden administration is saying these are no longer the shelters that the Trump administration used. They've been revamped. They [AUDIO OUT] as a temporary place for these children to stay while they're being connected with vetted family members.

At this point, the Biden administration says this is the best-- it was a difficult choice is the way that the White House press secretary Jen Psaki described it, but it's the choice that they've made. And at this point, you know, progressives haven't offered necessarily a specific proposal on what could be done differently just because of the complexities of handling thousands of children arriving and not wanting to put them in the hands of family members or sponsors that haven't gone through a vetting process [AUDIO OUT].

ELAINE QUIJANO: Right. It's an extremely challenging, complicated situation. Well, last week, more than 60 Democratic lawmakers publicly urged Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to end migrant expulsions via Title 42. What is Title 42? And what would some of the consequences be if its use was ended?

SABRINA RODRIGUEZ: So Title 42 has been the declaration that the Trump administration used since March of 2020 to expel migrants immediately arriving. It's done so in the name of public health, in the name of the pandemic, to preserve public safety and public health in the United States, as well as for the migrants. However, progressives and immigrant advocates have said that was just an excuse from the Trump administration to effectively seal off the border.

Right now if you arrive, the vast majority of people are sent back immediately without any kind of due process, without being able to try and seek asylum or try and stay in the United States. They get sent back. So the question right now is, if the Biden administration were to stop using Title 42, would that result in more people arriving at the border? And the resounding answer from migration experts, whether Democrat or Republican, is that absolutely. This is one of the only things, the tools that the Biden administration has at this point to prevent more people from arriving, especially as they don't have the capacity at this moment to handle it given the pandemic, as well as their rollback of all the Trump administration policies.

ELAINE QUIJANO: All right, as we said, just an extremely complex and challenging issue. Sabrina Rodriguez for us. Sabrina, thank you.

SABRINA RODRIGUEZ: Thank you for having me.