Accessibility links

Breaking News

The Inside Story | U.S. Immigration Dilemma - TRANSCRIPT

The Inside Story | U.S. Immigration Dilemma, Episode 92 - THUMBNAIL horizontal
The Inside Story | U.S. Immigration Dilemma, Episode 92 - THUMBNAIL horizontal

The Inside Story: U.S. Immigration Dilemma

Episode 92 – May 18, 2023

Show Open:

Unidentified Narrator:

This week on the inside story... the U.S. immigration dilemma.

The end of a pandemic-era emergency health order.

With title 42 now gone, the worry is that a surge of migrants will overwhelm U.S. border officials ability to manage them safely and humanely.

What are lawmakers in Washington doing to address a long-troubled immigration policy?

Now... the inside story: the U.S. immigration dilemma.

Hello and welcome to The Inside Story. I’m Carolyn Presutti, VOA Senior Washington Correspondent.

There is uncertainty and frustration at the U.S. Southern Border as COVID era immigration restrictions expire and migrants begin crossing into the United States.

Some are looking to find family already here...

Some are fleeing from repressive governments and looking for asylum...

Some just want to find jobs, make money and support their loved ones --- both here and back home.

Whatever the reason, the hundreds of thousands of people who cross the Southern Border from Mexico into the U.S. leave their homes behind and travel hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles to get here.

Many are willing to break the law to enter this country.

Many who want to follow the rules are confused as they look for any clear path toward starting a new life.

Title 42 was never meant to be a long-term solution for America’s troubled immigration system.

The recently expired emergency health order, used during the pandemic at the U.S.-Mexico border, allowed for rapid deportation of migrants back to their home countries.

But now what?

VOA’s immigration correspondent, Aline Barros, was at the South Texas border when Title 42 expired.

ALINE BARROS, VOA Immigration Correspondent:

The future of migrants waiting in Mexico for a chance to cross into the United States is uncertain. As new immigration measures are being rolled out, questions arise.

Title 42, a pandemic era health measure, allowed for the quick expulsion of migrants back to Mexico or their home countries. Now with its ending, migrants are confused about what to do next.

The Biden administration announced new asylum restrictions. But people like Priscilla Orta, who is an immigration lawyer in Brownsville, Texas, have been crossing the border into Matamoros, Mexico, every week to explain to migrants the process they’re about to face.

Priscila Orta, Immigration Lawyer:

If you enter under any other circumstances besides the app, or just prescheduled appointment, you will not be considered eligible for asylum, which, having worked day in and day out with people who are waiting, especially here in Matamoros, that is precisely what they're seeking an opportunity to apply for asylum.


Orta is advising migrants to use the CBPOne app to secure an appointment and letting them know that if they cross without authorization, they will be removed immediately.

But even with the extra 1,000 appointments available on the CBPOne app, people are waiting for some time.

Neris Arruaz, Cuban Migrant:

No space, no space, no space. We are desperate. We don’t know what to do.


Arruaz arrived in Matamoros a month ago and is still not sure when her family will be able to present themselves at a port of entry. She was an accountant in Cuba. If she crosses to the U.S., she has plans for the future.

Neris Arruaz, Cuban Migrant:

Entrepreneur and to get ahead, to get my family ahead.


In Brownsville, an increase in migrant arrivals is not something new.

Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr:

The reality is, you’ve got thousands, more than two thousand coming over every day.


Trevino says communities along the border are preparing for the worst but hoping for the best.

Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr.:

People keep talking about border security or implying that the border is insecure and not safe, and I would respectfully disagree with that. Just because we've had these surges in numbers of immigrants and migrants, that in and of itself has not created the border as an unsafe area. It's just created the situation that our immigration system is broken. And we've known that for more than 40 years and yet, administration or Congress after Congress continues to kick the can down saying let somebody else deal with it because they don't want to deal with the political fallout.


For border patrol officials, the mission is clear. Process migrants who qualify under current Asylum guidelines and quickly deport those who do not.

Fidel Baca, Border Patrol Agent:

The border is not open, OK? If you enter between the ports of entry, you're entering the country illegally. OK? And you are subject to consequences. Another thing that's going to come with Title 8 is consequences. What I mean by that is that people are going to be removed. OK? It's no longer referred to as deportation. But it's a synonym, OK. People will be deported. They will be facing deportation with a ban of re-entry of five years.


For those who were able to make it to the U.S. side, the journey isn’t over. Rose Carillo is asking for asylum. Her immigration court appointment is scheduled for May 2024. She’s on her way to Atlanta.

Rose Carillo, Venezuela Migrant:

I hope to eventually bring my children. I miss them so much. It’s so hard to be separated from my family. And they’re my only family, my mother, my three children. I have no one to help them. And I don’t work, they won’t eat. This is my dream. Is to have them here.


U.S. immigration officials are urging migrants to use the CBPone app if they plan to ask for asylum. They say the next few days will be busy.

Aline Barros, VOANEWS, Brownsville, Texas


Oversight groups say Title 42 allowed the U.S. to expel nearly three-million migrants in the past three years.

But even with it in place, the U.S. Southern border was at times, a chaotic mess.

The Biden administration has been criticized for the nation’s immigration policy. In turn, the administration is shifting the blame to Congress, urging it to upgrade immigration policies.

VOA’s Anita Powell has this story from Washington.

ANITA POWELL, VOA White House Correspondent:

The White House worked to address concerns that scenes like these could become the norm at the southern border with the lifting of Title 42.

President Joe Biden’s top immigration official on Wednesday announced a new rule under which migrants who cross between ports of entry will quickly be removed and ineligible for asylum, except in some cases. Those who make an appointment through the CBPOne app will still be able to seek asylum protection.

Alejandro Mayorkas, Homeland Security Secretary:

If anyone arrives at our southern border after midnight tonight, they will be presumed ineligible for asylum and subject to steep consequences for unlawful entry, including a minimum five-year ban on reentry and potential criminal prosecution.


Biden says Congress needs to do more.

Joe Biden, US President:

I asked the Congress for a lot more money for the Border Patrol. They didn't do it. They made it harder.


Biden’s opponents say he’s not doing enough to keep Americans safe.

Rep. Joe Wilson, Republican, South Carolina:

Biden border policies jeopardize national security and endanger all American families everywhere of a terrorist attack by illegal aliens.


But immigration advocates say Biden’s system is too tough.

Melissa Crow, Center for Gender and Refugee Studies:

This rule will only jeopardize the lives of people seeking safety and create even more chaos and suffering at our southern border. And as the administration well knows, it's also blatantly illegal. Essentially, the new rule combines and repackages two Trump-era asylum bans that President Biden himself denounced on the campaign trail, and both of which were struck down as unlawful in federal court.


The administration disagrees.

Alejandro Mayorkas, Homeland Security Secretary:

This president has led the unprecedented expansion of lawful pathways. We stand markedly different than the prior administration.


As the debate rages in Washington, there is no sign the country’s divided Congress will agree on new policies to address the number of migrants clamoring for a new life in America.

Anita Powell, VOA News, Washington.


Those seeking entry to the United States often get misleading sales pitches from human smugglers called coyotes.

Some immigration lawyers are fighting that misinformation by explaining the legal rights migrants have and the details of U.S. immigration law.

VOA’s Arash Arabasadi has The Inside Story.


The Biden administration has implemented new asylum restrictions affecting migrants crossing to the United States without authorization. Under the policy changes, migrants crossing between ports of entry are being quickly removed through a process known as expedited removal under the Title 8 code, which is the U.S. authority that covers immigration and nationality.

Priscilla Orta, Immigration lawyer:

I call it the 'asylum ban'-rule, because it fundamentally alters everything we've understood about asylum for the past 40 or 50 years since the law was written in the '80s.

In addition to that there do appear to be some minor exemptions if you cannot use the app. There appear to be additional consequences, but it's a long rule, and so I think for the next few days many attorneys throughout the country are going to be trying to understand it.


Those entering without authorization will also be ineligible for asylum unless they can prove they first requested protection in another country and were denied. They will also be banned from entering the U.S. for five years.

U.S. officials and immigration advocates are advising migrants to use the mobile app launched by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in October 2020, known as CBPOne, to secure an appointment to present themselves at an official port of entry, and let them know that if they cross without authorization, they will immediately be removed.

Migrants with exceptionally compelling circumstances such as an acute medical emergency, or who are victims of "a severe form of human trafficking,” or who face an "imminent and extreme threat" in Mexico will not be barred under the new asylum restrictions.

Additionally, the asylum rule does not apply to unaccompanied children, or UACs. They will go through a different process. UACs are not sent back but the Department of Health and Human Services will either place them in shelters for minors or help find a family member willing to take them. UACs go through the asylum process but under the Special Immigrant Juvenile Services program.


With the end of Title 42, advocates say people from all over the world keep coming and coming and the shelters, the camps are filling to capacity.

As numbers climb, some non-profit organizations, in the town of Reynosa, Mexico, are offering assistance for the new arrivals.

VOA’s Victor Castillo is there….along the southern border in McAllen, Texas.


Pastor Hector Silva - who operates this shelter for immigrants in Reynosa, Mexico says that the number of people arriving at the Texas Mexico border is non-stop.

Héctor Silva, “Senda De Vida” Shelter Director:

Every day, we have between 400 to 450 people arriving.

We have Chinese families, which surprises me a lot. How they are coming, we had a Chechen family, uh, we have Russian families, and we have families from all over the world.


Due to the lack of space in shelters, some migrant families camp on the street.

Honduran Migrant:

If it's difficult because they (kids) ask for water, food, and you don't have it.

Honduran Migrant:

It is made of two little blankets, this one we brought from Tejuchitán, a twig that we have standing there, and well, the other rags with stones.


Migrants lucky enough to find space in shelters cram into tents. Others have no place and stay wherever they can, sometimes in appalling conditions.

Gladys Cañas, ‘Ayudandoles a Triunfar’ Association:

In abandoned houses, abandoned cars, on the street, there is no place to put them, even here in the camp, also tents are already insufficient.


In the two ‘Senda de Vida’ shelters in Reynosa, the migrant population is over 8,500 people, according to organizers.

For VOA News, Victor Hugo Castillo, McAllen, Texas.


For immigrants entering the United States, adjusting to a new culture can be daunting.

In the midst of a myriad of challenges, many struggle to find physicians and proper health care.

Mindful of this, a former Ukrainian immigrant opened a health clinic that serves patients from 45 different countries.

VOA’s Svitlana Prystynska has this story from Denver, Colorado.


Ellie Titarenko knows the challenges of adjusting to life in the United States. She came to Colorado from Ukraine in 1999. Mindful of the health care obstacles many immigrants face, including language and insurance, the nurse practitioner decided to open her own clinic in suburban Denver.

Ellie Titarenko, Arvada West Family Medicine Owner:

We were learning how to do accreditation, learning how to do marketing, learning how to work with insurance companies, learning how to run a business, learning about HR [human resources]. We started with probably two people. My very first patients were my office manager’s children.


Two years later, the clinic had grown to more than 4,000 patients, including Kali Caldwell and her four-year-old daughter, Kalani.

Kali Caldwell, Patient:

I am not just a patient here. I am a person, and that’s what I enjoy the most in this clinic. They are always open for us. Even if it is just a sore throat, you can always get an appointment.

Doctor Ellie is nice because she treats people nice.


The clinic has staff members from Ukraine, Mexico and Iran, and its patients hail from all over the world.

Ellie Titarenko, Arvada West Family Medicine Owner:

We take huge pride in saying that we are seeing patients from 40 plus different countries here. Every employee here who came from a different country brings part of their culture to us.


Patient Ania Boglino came to Colorado from Poland.

Ania Boglino, Patient:

They don’t just do whatever the book says. They follow their heart, and you can feel it. It is not just help with your physical body but also mental health.


Sara Barahman moved to Denver from Tehran. She was a patient first, then started working at the clinic while studying physical therapy prerequisites at a local university.

Sara Barahman, Arvada West Family Medicine:

Patients are people here; they are not numbers. One of the first things I noticed is our wall that has a portrait of people from all over the world.


Titarenko says the clinic’s main rule is to never refuse to help.

Ellie Titarenko, Arvada West Family Medicine Owner:

We will normally be seeing them no matter what their insurance status is. If they are able to pay, we will accept their payment. If they are not able to pay, we will just help them out. It is not always physical help, monetary help, medical help. Sometimes it is just knowing that you are not by yourself.


She says it is important tolet immigrants know these first challenges do not go on forever.

Ellie Titarenko, Arvada West Family Medicine Owner:

This is just how we all started. This is a difficult beginning. It’s part of it. You are going to make it through it, and it is just going to make you stronger.


Titarenko says she is opening a second clinic to better serve the growing immigrant community here.

Svitlana Prystynska, for VOA News, Denver, Colorado).


While the U.S.-Mexico border continues to grapple with the influx of migrants hoping to enter the United States, Congress is debating new policies, but Republicans and Democrats have yet to agree on sensible legislation on immigration. To help shed light on this issue, we spoke with Angela Kelley, an executive at the American Immigration Lawyers Association and American Immigration Council:

Do think title 42 should have been kept? It seemed to be working? Correct? Could it have been extended?

Angela Kelley, AILA/American Immigration Council:

It depends whose perspective you know whether it's working or not. No, no, I don't think it should have been kept. It was you know, as a public health emergency declaration of public health emergency long ago over.


We haven't really seen that enormous surge that everyone predicted right?

Angela Kelley, AILA/American Immigration Council:

No, no, we haven't. I have to give credit to the administration for coming out with a number of policies and very clear messages that I think actually penetrated the even the smuggling network, and they made it clear to people that just because title 42 is ending does not mean that anyone is going to get to come in that there'll be consequences if you come in through channels that are not permissible by the government's policies.


Do you think because of how strict those consequences are the five year ban on you even trying again to enter this country played a role?

Angela Kelley, AILA/American Immigration Council:

I do. I do. I think that that even though it is current law, that is not a new policy. It wasn't one that the administration had, frankly, made very clear to people. They saw the need to do that with title 42 coming down, but to give the administration credit on the other side, they also opened up legal channels, legal pathways for people, and they saw remarkable results that when they made available a possibility of coming in lawfully, that the pressure at the southern border diminished considerably. And so what it really shows is that people want to come walk away. If we create legal channels for them, they will utilize them. And so I think the balance is you know what, how many legal channels, how broad and wide can they be? This administration has got limitations on what it can do. This is where really Congress needs to step in and step up.

People who come have very really limited options in terms of their ability to stay particularly if they apply for political asylum, it’s a very difficult burden of proof that a person has to need in order to be able to win asylum. Now, if they don't win, and they appeal and they lose their appeal, then they are removable. They are deportable. And that'll be something that'll be interesting to keep an eye on whether we see an increase in numbers of removals and that that will be the administration's mind, create an additional deterrent for people. That is still an open question. We haven't had enough time without title 42 in place. But I do think that they're they're smart to lead with the legal channels foot and then we'll have to see what happens.

What I think we really need to be able to do and I think we can accomplish this is we have to be able to better manage migration that's coming from different countries, people for different reasons, and we have to be able to offer people a meaningful chance at humanitarian protection if they qualify, and at the same time, be able to manage our border successfully, so that people who don't qualify, unfortunately are going to have to go back. But we really do need to give people a fair chance they need to have a chance for an attorney. They need to have a chance to prepare. They need to have a chance to be sure that they're understood if they're speaking in a language that's not English, which most of the time they are. So you know if we can put those safeguards in place, if we can make it so that people have a close family member in the US and they can reunite with that person. If they have a needed skill in the US and they could come lawfully to work, then we're creating legal channels that really serve the interests of both the immigrant and the nation. I think that's going to be the goal.


So we're talking about legal immigration and how the administration is paving the way for that. But in the meantime, that's today, there could be changes tomorrow, the day after right because of these legal challenges, one in Florida, one from the ACLU, which is major Can you explain the difference between those challenges in court?

Angela Kelley, AILA/American Immigration Council:

Sure. The Florida case a Florida judge has ordered that DHS process people at the border, not by releasing them under a provision called parole where they're permitted to come in and they have to report to an ice office in order to be able to be put in deportation proceedings. That is a quicker way of processing people. There's still an initial screening, we still know who they are. But it's not the full processing of putting them in deportation proceedings and with the with the judge's order is that DHS can't do that, that they have to do the full robust processing of people and giving them a notice to appear in court. The challenge there is that that process takes a lot longer. And so that's where we can begin to see backups and border patrol stations and people growing impatient and people deciding Well, I'm going to try to come in another way. So that's that's the concern there.

So the goal needs to be that we do a quick screening of people. Let's make sure that they're not somebody who we need to be concerned about, and that we quickly move them to where they have family who will support them who will make sure that they show up at their at their ice interview, make sure that they apply for work authorization and apply for asylum. That's we want to do is to be able to facilitate a fair and efficient process for people.

The lawsuit that's been filed by the ACLU is is not complete yet. So I think this might be where we're going to see an additional change in policy. And that lawsuit is challenging a recent Biden administration policy that is known by some as a transit ban or an asylum ban. And it says that you can't come between a port of entry that you should have applied in a country that you transited through for asylum, if you could have applied there. That's like the harsher consequence and that what the administration is trying to do is to have people apply at ports of entry.

But the real the real point of the transit rule is to try to encourage people to go to a port of entry to make an appointment with an app known as CBP one. There are 1000 appointments a day across the border, and that they come in to that orderly way. That's the administration's goal, though the weakness in that the vulnerability if you will, is that if you have a person who is fleeing persecution, who has does not speak English, and is vulnerable, because they have been persecuted, they have suffered, then they they may not have known they could have applied for asylum in another country that may not be a country where they're safe. And we know that conditions in northern Mexico unfortunately are very dangerous. So the concern is that we're going to be in an effort to like send this tough message, we're going to be turning our back on people who are truly vulnerable.


That’s all for now—we hope you found today’s program informative and thought provoking.

Stay up to date with all the news at

Follow us on Instagram and Facebook at VOA News.

Follow me on Twitter at CarolynVOA

Catch up on past episodes at our free streaming service, VOA Plus.

For all of those behind the scenes who brought you today’s show, I’m Carolyn Presutti.

We’ll see you next week for The Inside Story.