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Some Democrats are joining with Republicans lobbying to keep Title 42

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

President Biden faces growing criticism and legal challenges to his decision to lift Title 42. That's the public health order imposed by the Trump White House to keep migrants out of the U.S. during the pandemic. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was called to Capitol Hill to defend the Biden administration's decision to rescind it.

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ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS: With the Title 42 public health order set to be lifted, we expect migration levels to increase as smugglers seek to take advantage of and profit from vulnerable migrants. We will continue to enforce our immigration laws.

MARTINEZ: However, Republicans such as Kevin McCarthy say if Biden rolls back Title 42, illegal immigration will get worse. And now a growing number of Democrats also want the president to leave it in place for the moment at least. Maria Cardona is a Democratic strategist with the Dewey Square Group. Maria, back in 2020, Democrats railed against the Trump administration for using Title 42. Now some of them want Biden to keep it. So what's up with the 180?

MARIA CARDONA: Well, hey, A. First of all, good morning. Buenos dias. Thank you for having me. Look - from the very beginning, Title 42 was a health policy. It's a public health authority. Never was it intended to be an immigration policy. But what happened was that under the Trump administration, who were focused on divisive, fear-based, xenophobic immigration policies, they implemented it as a way to keep migrants out. Now what we're seeing is the Republican Party, as per usual, want to continue to weaponize Title 42 to increase fear among their xenophobic base, which is the only way they know how to mobilize it, and try to use it against Democrats. Democrats understand this.

MARTINEZ: So why are Democrats - yeah, why are Democrats seemingly, some of them, going along with it, though?

CARDONA: Well, as you know, we are looking at a very tough midterm for Democrats. So they understand what the GOP is trying to do here. And they know that as they weaponize immigration, they're going to use it against them in the midterms. But, look - there's no question that the majority of Democrats - frankly, every single Democrat and I hope some commonsense Republicans, though not enough - really want to focus on solutions, A, and solutions require a comprehensive immigration policy that focuses on increasing security at the border and then looking at commonsense ways to regularize the flow between people who want to come here to work, the need for people to come here to work, all focused on making sure that it is done in an unchaotic, safe manner, humanely at the border, which is what the majority of Americans want. Republicans are focused on fear mongering and weaponizing immigration.

MARTINEZ: But so on that - yeah.

CARDONA: They should try to focus on solutions.

MARTINEZ: Maria, so on that, over the years I've talked with dozens of immigration advocates who always seem to have the same lament - that D.C. will always find a way to kick the can on immigration reform. If Title 42 in this case stays in place, despite President Biden's campaign promise to end it, how can voters trust anyone that makes immigration a campaign pillar?

CARDONA: That's a really good question, A. What they can look at is the history of this and look at the parties and the leaders who have actually tried to push real immigration solutions. Democrats tried to do this back in 2013. We were on the verge of passing comprehensive immigration reform with a handful of, back then, commonsense Republicans who helped pass it in the Senate. When it got to the House, as you recall, it was Republican president of the - leader of the House, John Boehner, who essentially told President Obama, I'm not going to bring this up in the House because I know it will pass with majority Democratic support, and I can't have that. That is not leadership, A. So what Americans can count on is that Democrats will always come forward with real solutions. What they need to push is their Republican leadership to stop fearmongering and help the Democrats come to the table with Democrats...

MARTINEZ: Right.

CARDONA: ...To focus on real solutions for the benefit of the country.

MARTINEZ: Speaking of leadership, though, 'cause President Biden is the leader of the Democratic Party, when it comes to moderate Democrats and also, say, vulnerable Democrats who want him to keep Title 42 in place and then progressive Democrats who aren't happy that there could be a delay or that it might stay in place for a while, how can he, as a leader of the party, find some unifying middle ground ahead of November?

CARDONA: I think he needs to continue to talk about what the solutions are. And this administration and, again, Democrats have put forward real comprehensive solutions. The administration has this in Biden's agenda. They have increased security measures to reduce the chaos at the border, to reduce the unsafety that is what - is happening now, right? Let's look at what Title 42 has done. Title 42 has actually caused a fourfold increase in the chaos at the border. It has - never was supposed to be a solution. So again, let's focus on what should be real commonsense solutions to this problem.

MARTINEZ: Democratic strategist Maria Cardona. Thanks a lot.

CARDONA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.