Pressure Is Building On Biden To Do More For Asylum-Seekers And Migrants
President Biden, who spoke Monday to the nation's largest Latino civil rights group, is under pressure to make good on his promises to fix the immigration system.
NOEL KING, HOST:
President Biden will talk to the biggest Latino civil rights organization in the country today. He's under pressure to make good on some promises he made about immigration early in his term. NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez is following this one. Hey, Franco.
FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hey, Noel.
KING: What is the particular pressure that Biden is facing?
ORDOÑEZ: Well, there are many complex immigration issues facing the administration, but two of them have really reached a crossroads right now. His remarks to UnidosUS today come at a time when an average 6,000 migrants a day have been arriving at the border. That's the largest number in recent history. The White House has also held on to a pandemic rule that shuts the border to the vast majority of people seeking asylum. It's called Title 42. And the White House says it's a matter of public health to keep it there. But it is something that has really angered people who see it more of a political move than a public health measure, and they're pressuring the White House to lift that order.
KING: OK, so those are would-be immigrants who are still outside of the country. What about immigrants inside the country?
ORDOÑEZ: Right. He has - the other thing is he has not made much headway on efforts to protect the 11 million undocumented immigrants who are living inside the country. And just this month, a federal judge in Texas ruled against the program known as DACA. That's the program that protects young immigrants from deportation. I talked to immigration advocates last week about what they want to hear from Biden today. Ali Noorani of the National Immigration Forum told me he thinks it's important that Biden tries to appeal to swing voters on this issue, people who are concerned about the border but also open to changes.
ALI NOORANI: This has to be a speech to suburban families, to rural families, who are asking questions of - OK, as a nation, are we going to be safe and secure under the Biden administration? And are we going to be able to treat the immigrants who I've come to know and love through church, through work, through school, are we going to treat them compassionately?
ORDOÑEZ: Now, some protections for undocumented people may be included in a budget reconciliation package that Democrats are working on this summer. The White House says it supports that push, but in the past week, Biden has also twice questioned whether the rules would allow it.
KING: Twice, OK. So what's going to happen at this conference with UnidosUS today?
ORDOÑEZ: Well, you know, the - you know, we do not expect, you know, a lot of details on some of these issues. You know, this is a virtual conference, and Biden's remarks are going to be prerecorded. You know, I don't expect it will be long or extremely detailed. And there are other top-of-mind issues that Latinos want to hear about, too. I spoke about this with Clarissa Martinez De Castro. She works on policy and advocacy at UnidosUS.
CLARISSA MARTINEZ DE CASTRO: While immigration packs a powerful punch and it is incredibly important for Latinos, we care deeply about the economy and jobs. We care deeply about how we're going to recover from the pandemic.
KING: And the stakes are pretty high here for the president, aren't they?
ORDOÑEZ: They are very high. You know, this is the fastest-growing part of the electorate. The Biden team is also very aware of the inroads that former President Donald Trump made with Latinos. Matt Barreto, he is a Democratic pollster who advised the Biden campaign, and he says it's really important to engage early because there are so many first-time Latino voters.
MATT BARRETO: And so because of that churn of new citizens and young people, you can't take the Latino vote for granted. You need to be constantly doing outreach and always be communicating with Latinos.
ORDOÑEZ: And, you know, Noel, he said he thinks this White House is doing just that, in part through having Latinos in a number of senior positions at the White House and also doing a lot of outreach via campaign affiliates.
KING: NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez. Thank you, Franco.
ORDOÑEZ: Thank you, Noel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.