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A Federal Judge In Texas Rules Against The Obama-Era DACA Program

NOEL KING, HOST:

The Senate is expected to start voting on the Biden administration's infrastructure plan this week. The White House would prefer to keep the focus on infrastructure, but on Friday, a federal judge in Texas ruled against the Obama-era DACA program. It's kept hundreds of thousands of people who were brought to the U.S. as kids safe from deportation. Biden now says the Department of Justice is going to appeal that ruling. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith has been following this story from here in D.C. Good morning, Tam.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good morning.

KING: Immigration is one of these issues that has haunted so many U.S. administrations, and it seems like the same thing is playing out with the Biden administration.

KEITH: It has certainly been a challenge. President Biden and his administration aimed to show that their immigration policy is more humane than former President Trump's, but they have been criticized for struggling to manage a surge of unaccompanied minors at the border, and just generally, border apprehensions are way up under President Biden. In June, border agents stopped more than 188,000 migrants trying to cross the southern border - that's a 21-year high. Part of that may be a pandemic effect. Administration officials point out that a pandemic emergency order means most people apprehended are expelled without being detained or processed, and many of them are trying again and again, driving up the number of encounters. Thirty-four percent of people who tried to cross the border last month had tried at least once before in the past year.

In terms of message, there has been a challenge. I was traveling with Vice President Harris last month in Guatemala when she urged people not to come. The administration doesn't want people making that dangerous journey. They certainly don't want the bad headlines of so many border apprehensions. They want people to come here through legal channels, but the legal immigration system is pretty broken. And I will just say that immigration is one area where polls have shown real warning signs for President Biden, where approval of his handling of immigration is not great.

KING: OK. And so we have this ruling in Texas on DACA, which the Biden administration says the DOJ will appeal. Aside from appealing, is there anything else the administration can do on DACA at this point?

KEITH: The president is urging Congress to act to protect the so-called DREAMers. Congress has been trying to do that for 20 years.

KING: Yeah.

KEITH: He's - the president is even urging Democrats to throw a legalization, a path to citizenship, into the big $3.5 trillion budget plan they're considering. But it's not at all clear that the Senate rules will allow immigration to sort of be jammed in there along with everything else. You know, the president has put forward a comprehensive immigration reform proposal, but if you didn't notice it, you would be forgiven. Unlike infrastructure, he hasn't been traveling the country, pressing on Congress to pass it.

KING: And then the bipartisan infrastructure plan - which Biden would like us all to focus on, surely - could face a big test this week. What is that?

KEITH: Yeah, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says he wants to put it up for a procedural vote, a test vote this week to see how much support it has. And it would also move the process forward as they move toward the August recess.

KING: NPR Politics Podcast co-host Tamara Keith. Thank you, Tam.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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