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Biden’s asylum restrictions come as many voters disagree with his immigration record

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President Biden's move to make it harder to seek asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border comes as polls show many voters aren't happy with his record on immigration. Many centrist Democrats support the executive order he issued this week. But Republicans are criticizing it and so are some Democrats and groups that advocate for asylum-seekers. Clarissa Martinez De Castro is with the Latino Vote Initiative at UnidosUS. That's a group focused on advocating for the civil rights of Latinos. She spoke with our colleague, A Martínez.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Clarissa, who would you say was the Biden administration's intended audience for this executive order?

CLARISSA MARTINEZ DE CASTRO: It almost feels like if you were doing an interview but you forgot about the audience. The administration seems to be responding to its Republican critics. Granted, voters are hearing more from Republicans than from Democrats on the issue. But in responding to their critics rather than to their audience, the American public, they are not speaking to the balanced approach that the American public wants to see. And so in that regard it's a little bit perplexing to figure out which voters they might be swaying with this. And bottom line is also because if they don't get out there and talk about their vision for this, then they won't achieve any political effect that might have been behind this.

MARTÍNEZ: You think it's possible that some undecided voters are going to maybe lean toward Joe Biden because of this executive order, maybe because they say or they'll think that he's being tougher on immigration, on migrants, on asylum-seekers?

MARTINEZ DE CASTRO: Bottom line, voters are frustrated. That is also Latino voters. People want to see order and a well-managed, not just border, but immigration system. But ultimately, doing an executive action alone is not going to achieve a shift in support. It's about leaning in and having that conversation. If voters are hearing more from your opponents than from you on the issue, taking an action alone is not going to do it. It needs to be multiple actions, and there needs to be a more active conversation with the American electorate about this.

MARTÍNEZ: What did you make of the timing of this executive order, five months out from the presidential election in November?

MARTINEZ DE CASTRO: I think it may be tied, hopefully, to something much broader than the election in November. Migration now is more clearly than ever a global issue. We see countries all over the world dealing with situations like the one the United States is dealing with. And therefore, navigating our way forward to restore the rule of law and preserve it is going to require more deliberate and effective collaboration, in the U.S. case, certainly with countries in this hemisphere. And Mexico is going to be a critical partner.

MARTÍNEZ: Clarissa, for many people who are listening, they hear us talking about asylum-seekers, and it's not something that they see in their daily lives. It's not something they think about too much. Maybe they're not along the border where this is a bigger issue and it's more in their face. You had an experience with asylum-seekers recently. Tell us about what you experienced and how maybe humanizing these people might give people a different perspective on this issue.

MARTINEZ DE CASTRO: There is a sense that people are just being waved through. And that is not what's happening. I happened to be traveling this week and run into asylum-seekers at the airport who had been processed. They have ankle bracelets. They're being monitored. They have an appointment for their case to be heard. And they were reuniting with family who they have in this country, who have been here for a long time.

And running into these young moms who had never been on a plane ever and had navigated a long journey, I think a lot of times in the narrative, we just don't realize just how dire the situation is for a venture into the unknown in that way. But it is important for all of us to kind of come face to face with that so that we can hold accountable our elected leaders to make sure that they're delivering the solutions we all want to see. At the end of the day, when the legal channels work, people will use them.

MARTÍNEZ: Clarissa Martinez De Castro is vice president of the Latino Vote Initiative at UnidosUS. Thank you very much.

MARTINEZ DE CASTRO: Thank you. 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.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
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