California Sen. Alex Padilla on Sunday pushed back against what he called “Republican rhetoric” around the expected expiration of Title 42, a pandemic-era policy which allows the expulsion of migrants on public health grounds.
“Here’s the biggest frustration for all the Republicans rhetoric about chaos at the border: No. 1, they have yet to come forward with a plan of how to better handle this scenario,” Padilla, a Democrat who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee’s immigration, citizenship and border safety subcommittee and the first Latino to represent California in the chamber, told ABC “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz.
“No. 2, they have not been willing to commit the additional resources that the departments and agencies say that they need to handle this big influx,” Padilla said.
While Republicans say President Joe Biden has not been clear and forceful enough in his immigration policies, Padilla argued otherwise — while calling Title 42 a health policy that no longer served its purpose.
“It’s past time for Title 42 to be gone,” he said. “The administration has made it clear that while Title 42 is technically lifted, they’re ready to put in place a system at the border that keeps them fairer but also more orderly and more safe.”
Raddatz asked Padilla about immigration comments from his state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, that California is overwhelmed, with systems that will “break” without Title 42.
“The fact is, what we’ve got right now is not working and it’s about to break in a post-42 world unless we take some responsibility and ownership,” Newsom told ABC News Chief National Correspondent Matt Gutman earlier this month.
On “This Week,” Padilla admitted that the rollback will be a challenge and hinges in part on the funding and operations of the departments that oversee immigration at the southern border. He also directed some blame at former President Donald Trump, claiming Trump’s administration underfunded immigration agencies.
“I appreciate Gov. Newsom’s frustration. He and I spoke just a couple of days ago,” Padilla said.
Raddatz pressed Padilla several times for clarity about what he thinks conditions will look like after Title 42.
“Do you expect everything to just go smoothly on Wednesday? Give us a sense of what will happen in your state, given what Gavin Newsom has said, for these first couple of weeks when they do expect 18,000 people a day crossing the southern border,” Raddatz said.
“We will, I’m sure, see the departments begin to make every effort to maintain the safety, the orderliness, the fairness of people seeking asylum or having other determinations that they’re coming for other reasons or in other places,” Padilla said.
Conservatives like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott have said Title 42 — which has been used to remove people more than 2.4 million times — should remain in place or risk an overwhelming amount of immigration at the southern border. The policy ending “will likely increase” migration flows, the Department of Homeland Security said last week.
Critics of the restriction say it prevents people from lawfully making asylum claims as they try to enter the U.S.
Last month, a judge ruled Title 42 should be lifted by Wednesday, finding that it had minimal impact on public health.
On Friday, a federal appeals court turned down some GOP-led states’ efforts to force the Biden administration to keep Title 42 in place. The states, including Texas, are expected to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Padilla told Raddatz on Sunday that “we do need to invest more in border safety and security.” But, he said, “we’ve got to do it in a smart way” in contrast with Republican calls to focus on erecting massive, continuous physical barriers. “The years we lost to the ‘build the wall’ debate was foolish,” he said.
“We know that whether it’s migrants — whether it’s you know, whatever the Republicans are afraid of, contraband, etc. — comes primarily through ports of entry. And so that’s got to be the first and foremost focus on border safety dollars,” Padilla said.
He has authored a number of immigration reform measures and has led efforts to try to get an immigration fix into an omnibus spending bill that Congress is currently considering.
On “This Week,” Padilla said that immigration policy should continue to be discussed by lawmakers.
“An individual, a family, coming to the border seeking asylum today is very different than the millions of immigrants who are in the United States already and have been here for years. Yes, in many cases undocumented, but working, paying taxes, raising families, contributing to the success of our economy, working in essential jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Padilla said. “They deserve better than to live in fear of deportation.”
“Can we separate the need to do right by them from addressing somebody coming to the southern border next week?” he continued. “Republicans, are they willing to do that as well?”
Raddatz asked Padilla if bipartisan compromise on immigration, which has repeatedly failed in Congress before, was possible.
He noted the current political climate but said, “God, I hope so, because the ideas are already there.”
ABC News’ Luke Barr and Quinn Owen contributed to this report.