© 2024 Peoria Public Radio
A joint service of Bradley University and Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Some Democrats say Biden's ban on most asylum-seekers goes too far


President Biden's new executive order makes it harder for asylum-seekers to enter the U.S. Yesterday, we heard from Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who defended the policy. Today, we're going to hear from a member of the president's own party who thinks it goes too far. That's Senator Alex Padilla. He's a Democrat from California, and he chairs the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship and Border Safety. Senator, thank you so much for joining us.

ALEX PADILLA: Thank you for having me, Michel.

MARTIN: Senator, you issued a statement calling this Trump's asylum ban. You said that by reviving Trump's asylum ban, President Biden has undermined American values and abandoned our nation's obligations to provide people fleeing persecution, violence and authoritarianism with an opportunity to seek refuge in the United States. So, you know, obviously, you disagree with it. Secretary Mayorkas says this is not Trump's ban. This is different. You disagree.

PADILLA: Well, there are some minor differences, but the fundamental framework of this executive order is very, very close to what was tried and failed during the Trump administration, and that's one of my frustrations with both this executive order, the bipartisan bill that was negotiated in the Senate a few months ago. Nobody's asking, who is coming to the southern border, where are they coming from, and, most importantly, why are they coming? In many cases, it's people fleeing persecution. It's people fleeing authoritarian regimes, the very types of conditions that are why we have an asylum system to begin with. So unless we start paying attention to the root causes of migration and addressing them, we're not going to stem the flow.

MARTIN: Well, so let me dig into a couple of things here. First of all, you raise a moral objection. You say that this is out of alignment with American values and at least President Biden's stated values, but your second objection, as you've just described it here and as you described in your statement, is that it won't work. It just won't work. Why do you say it just won't work?

PADILLA: Well, again, we can build a wall as high as we want, or we can make it as impossible as we can try to - for people to qualify for asylum, but the root causes, the reasons so many people come to the United States seeking asylum, are going to continue to be there, so there's a smarter, more effective way to go about it, including engaging partners in not just Mexico, but in Central and South America. This really is a hemispheric challenge that requires a hemispheric solution, and here's my frustration with the Republicans - they point to the border and call it a crisis, yet they continue to deny the very departments and agencies charged with managing the border of the resources they need to manage it more effectively.

And here's another little-known fact - the numbers these last couple months have actually reduced significantly. The numbers of people coming to the southern border have gone down. Why? Because the administration officials have engaged partners in the Mexican government to manage it together, and it's been successful.

MARTIN: You talked about the need for more resources to improve the infrastructure for receiving migrants and for adjudicating their claims, whether they're legitimate asylum claims or not. I mean, the administration says - and Secretary Mayorkas said this yesterday - that they were working with Congress and that Republicans walked away from the deal. Democrats say it's because President Trump told them to. Others say that the deal was inadequate. But in any case, the administration says they've tried working with Congress. Congress, at least in its current form, is unwilling. This is the best that they can do. You just don't buy it.

PADILLA: Well, look, I am definitely not in the camp of do nothing, and I know the president feels like he needs to do something. I just wish it was something more thoughtful and more strategic, but ultimately, the solutions do lie with Congress. Just to pick an arbitrary number and say the border's going to close after, you know, 2,500 people may show up in a particular day just violates, from a human rights perspective, the asylum-seeker who is next in line. What we should be doing, to reduce the wait time between people requesting asylum and their final determination, is hiring more immigration judges, more hearing officers, building the capacity of that system...

MARTIN: All right, OK, but I'm asking...

PADILLA: ...So that people will get their answer in a matter of weeks, not years.

MARTIN: I understand that. I understand that, but the administration is saying that they can't do that without the budgetary authority from Congress, so I'm asking you, within their executive authority - you said you're not in the camp of doing nothing. What could President Biden do, within the scope of his executive authority, that you think would be superior to what he's now done?

PADILLA: Well, again, there's already some success that we should all recognize, that the numbers of people approaching the southern border have declined significantly in the last couple of months, without a bill being passed, without an executive order being signed. It's because we've engaged the government of Mexico, south of the border, to address the migration challenge together. We need to build on that with partners in Central and South America to do it even more so, but ultimately, the final solution does lie with Congress.

MARTIN: That is Alex Padilla. He is a United States Senator, a Democrat, and he represents California. He's also the chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship and Border Safety. Senator Padilla, thank you so much for speaking with us.

PADILLA: Thank you. Have a good day. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.