Melissa Harris-Perry: We've been talking about the broader context surrounding the tragic deaths of more than 50 migrants smuggled in the back of a truck traveling through San Antonio, Texas. These deaths have brought renewed scrutiny to US immigration policy. Now, during his first days in office, President Biden ended the Trump administration's migrant protection protocols, more widely known as, "Remain in Mexico".
That policy required asylum seekers to wait in Mexico, instead of staying in the US while the US immigration courts adjudicate their cases. That decision is at the heart of a highly anticipated Supreme Court case that will be decided soon, Biden v. Texas. For more on this, I'm joined now by Camilo Montoya-Galvez, who's Immigration Reporter for CBS News. Welcome back to The Takeaway, Camilo.
Camilo Montoya-Galvez: Thanks for having me, Melissa.
Melissa Harris-Perry: All right. Before we get into "Remain in Mexico", can you talk about what messages we've heard from political leaders in the days since the tragic death of more than 50 migrants in San Antonio, Texas?
Camilo Montoya-Galvez: Yes, Melissa. We have seen several Republican lawmakers, including Texas governor, Greg Abbott, accuse the Biden administration of being partly or solely responsible for the tragic deaths of dozens of migrants in this incident near San Antonio, Texas. The Biden administration, however, has faulted human smugglers for this incident.
We often see many of these tragic events happen because many of these migrants pay human smugglers to be able to get to the US and to stay here while crossing the US-Mexico border illegally. It's important just to underscore that while many Republican lawmakers have accused the Biden administration of implementing so-called open border policies, right now the administration has continued to enforce a Trump-era border restriction known as Title 42 that allows border officials to expel some migrants to Mexico without processing their asylum claims.
That means that the border is in fact not open to all migrants. Some migrants are indeed being allowed to stay in the US while their cases are adjudicated, but some are being summarily expelled from the country. I just thought it would be important to set the record straight there.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Let's dig in on Title 42. There's been a bit of back and forth with the Biden administration and courts on this policy. Can you maybe walk us through some of what's been happening over the course of the past year and a half on how the President's administration has attempted to deal with it and how the courts have been telling him he can't deal with it?
Camilo Montoya-Galvez: Sure. Title 42 is a public health authority that was first invoked by the Trump administration back in March of 2020. The CDC at the time said this policy was necessary to contain the spread of COVID-19. The Biden administration while it reversed some Trump-era border policies continued to enforce Title 42 for over a year.
Back in May, the Biden administration said it was going to wind down Title 42 gradually and ended by May 23rd. However, we then saw Republican-led states sue the government, and they were able to convince a federal judge in Louisiana to block Title 42's termination. The Biden administration has been forced to continue this Trump-era policy indefinitely.
Melissa Harris-Perry: It's one thing for a policy to be on the books, it's another thing to enforce it. Not to say that we wish that the world worked that way, but it is, after all, how the world works. Lots of things on the books that aren't enforced. Is it your sense that Biden administration really wants to abandon Title 42?
Camilo Montoya-Galvez: Melissa, if you ask progressive activists and immigrant rights advocates, they would say that the Biden administration took too long to start the process of unwinding this Title 42 public health order. They wanted President Biden to scrap all Trump-era border restrictions on day one, but, as I mentioned earlier, President Biden kept Title 42 in place for over a year. It wasn't until earlier the spring that his administration said it was going to end this policy.
We also know that despite the fact that public health experts have denounced this policy and have said that it is not rooted in public health, the Biden administration, for over a year, said it was necessary to control the spread of COVID-19. Frankly, border officials have relied on Title 42 to manage very large numbers of encounters of migrants over the past year.
We've seen record levels of migrant apprehensions over the past year. Obviously, apprehensions don't equal individual people because many migrants are being counted multiple times because they're entering the country multiple times after being expelled to Mexico, but these apprehension levels are still unprecedented.
Melissa Harris-Perry: That point of unprecedented apprehension, there was unprecedented deportation during the Obama administration. I'm wondering if there is a meaningful difference between how Democrats and Republicans-- let's say over the last 50 years. Is US immigration policy meaningfully different whether the president is a Democrat or a Republican?
Camilo Montoya-Galvez: That's a critical question. I think you would have to separate US border policy and US immigration policy in the interior. I think we've seen both Democratic and Republican administrations use the deterrence-based policies at the US-Mexico border to try to discourage migrants from coming to the US.
The Obama administration, for example, created family detention facilities to hold migrant families with minor children while their asylum cases were adjudicated. The Trump administration expanded that practice and instituted a series of deterrence-based policies to try to discourage people from coming to the US, including the "Remain in Mexico" policy and the Title 42 expulsions.
The Biden administration, again, while it has reversed some of these restrictions, has relied on policies like Title 42 to continue to manage migration flows. The administration has also said that migrants who are not able to prove that they have a legal basis to stay in the US will, in fact, be deported.
I think when you get to the question of US immigration policy in the interior, we have seen some dramatic changes by the Biden administration. Under the Trump administration, really, everyone who was here in the US without legal permission was subject to ICE arrest and deportation.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Camilo Montoya-Galvez, Immigration Reporter for CBS News. Thank you so much for joining us today.
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