With help from Joe Anuta, Ella Creamer, Rishika Dugyala, Jesse Naranjo and Teresa Wiltz
What up, Recast family! The president holds pivotal talks with the top four congressional leaders to avoid a debt ceiling default, the Trump rape trial heads to the jury and the treasurer behind the still-active campaign account for Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, resigns. First, though, we focus on the lifting of Title 42, now just days away.
This may be the most consequential week of Joe Biden’s presidency.
Barely two weeks into the launch of his reelection campaign, when he asked voters to let him “finish the job,” Biden faces a series of crises that might very well derail his prospects: sagging poll numbers, the threat of defaulting on the nation’s debt and a potentially looming humanitarian catastrophe at the southern border.
The first two — a new low in the president’s approval rating, dipping to 37 percent, and today’s high stakes meeting with top Republicans and Democrats to forge a path on debt ceiling talks — are important for sure. Still, neither holds the potential of cratering his campaign.
But what will take place Thursday could tank the president.
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That is when Title 42, the Trump-era public health order that was put into place during the height of the pandemic and later expanded under Biden, ends. Since it was implemented in March 2020, border officials have used their authority more than 2 million times to expel asylum-seeking migrants.
Immigration is a politically vexing issue for Biden, with voters, immigration advocates and even some within his own party questioning whether the White House is fully prepared for the influx of migrants expected in the coming days.
The Biden administration pushes back on the characterization that it is unprepared, playing up several measures including plans to establish processing centers in Latin America and partnerships with aid organizations to process migrants before they move to the U.S. southern border.
Also slated to go into effect this week is a new rule barring migrants from seeking asylum if they first entered the country illegally. Under current immigration law, migrants can apply for asylum regardless of how they entered the U.S.
Biden’s administration should be doing more to counter conservative characterizations that the border is broken, says María Teresa Kumar, the president and CEO of Voto Latino. She’d like to see Biden and his party speak up more.
“Democrats have been so fearful of touching immigration because they feel that they're going to lose independents and moderates,” Kumar says. “I think it's a miscalculation on their part.”
Just as the administration pushed to expedite the process to bring 100,000 Ukrainians fleeing war with Russia to the U.S. last year, a similar pitch needs to be made for those fleeing corruption and instability in Latin America, too, she adds.
If the administration were to start to shape and prioritize the immigration agenda, including creating pathways to legal status, including for some, citizenship, Kumar says it would go a long way towards helping Biden make inroads with Latino voters ahead of the 2024 election.
Before that happens though, the Biden administration has to counter rhetoric from Republicans, who accuse Biden of being lax on border enforcement; the U.S. they argue, is a beacon for drug and weapons smugglers to U.S. ports of entry.
Meanwhile, the Texas Legislature is expected to take up a legislation known as HB 20 that would create a state-level border enforcement unit, that would allow for the “use of force to repel, arrest, and detain known transnational cartel operatives in the border region.”
The text of the bill, sponsored by Republican state Rep. Matt Schaefer, cites lethal quantities of opioids flooding into Texas and says “many Texans have lost the peaceful use and enjoyment of their properties due to criminal activities along the border.”
Critics of the measure call it anti-immigrant and a vigilante bill. Border enforcement largely falls under the purview of federal agencies, like Customs and Border Protection.
Rep. Sharice Davids, the only Democrat in the Kansas congressional delegation and among the top targets of the National Republican Congressional Committee in 2024, sent a letter to DHS and the White House imploring Biden and Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to “recommit” to work with Republicans to find common ground on immigration reform.
“U.S. House Republicans plan to initiate debate about immigration reform in the coming weeks,” Davids wrote in a letter on Monday. “I urge you and the White House to join me in engaging in these conversations about what the landscape for immigration reform in our country should look like.”
Biden’s perceived weak standing on this issue is not deterring some of his most ardent supporters though.
“What I’m going to be keeping my eye on is how Republicans continue to use the issue of immigration and the border,” says Sindy Benavides, executive director of Latino Victory Project, which was the first Latino organization to back Biden ahead of the 2020 Nevada primary.
“They treat this as a piñata for scoring political points.”
Benavides adds that ending Title 42 is a step in the right direction for restoring the nation’s asylum process, but acknowledges that more needs to be done. She argues the Biden administration rarely gets the credit it deserves for its nuanced approach to asylum as it tries to work through a backlog of cases, while quickly expelling migrants who may not qualify for asylum.
When asked if Latino voters who supported Biden in the last election would consider abandoning him over his handling of immigration, Benavides had a brief retort: “Not at all.”
We’ll certainly be watching how this plays out from both a political and a humanitarian standpoint.
All the best,
The Recast Team
THE SUBWAY KILLING FALLOUT
The killing of 30-year-old Jordan Neely on a subway train last week has increasingly isolated two key figures in New York City politics — Mayor Eric Adams and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg — in a case that is putting a microscope on issues of mental health, race and policing in the city, reports Joe Anuta, who covers City Hall for POLITICO.
On May 1, Neely, who is Black, was acting erratically on a subway train. He died after he was put into a chokehold by a 24-year-old passenger named Daniel Penny, who is white. Days later, the city’s medical examiner ruled Neely’s death a homicide. Thus far, Penny has not been arrested or charged with a crime.
After a video of the incident made the rounds, outrage and calls for Bragg to indict began building from left-leaning Democrats including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the city’s progressive comptroller, Brad Lander.
Adams — who has a law enforcement background, a well-documented disdain for the left and a history of sparing Bragg from public criticism — called those reactions irresponsible. Last week, he told reporters that observers should reserve judgment until the investigation is complete. At the time, his response seemed to provide a bit of cover to the Manhattan prosecutor, who himself was elected as a progressive and who famously indicted former President Donald Trump.
New York political figures didn’t follow suit. And now Bragg and Adams are increasingly being assailed from all sides.
With each tweet or statement, the pressure builds on Bragg to announce an indictment — and ups the stakes if he does not. Already, New Yorkers have staged protests that have ended in clashes with the NYPD. And by echoing Bragg’s calls for patience, Adams has done little to counter calls to increase mental health funding that are now coming from political bedfellows and longstanding allies.
“Racism that continues to permeate throughout our society allows for a level of dehumanization that denies Black people from being recognized as victims when subjected to acts of violence,” said Adrienne Adams, a moderate Democrat and the first Black speaker of the New York City Council, in a statement last week.
She added that “the initial response by our legal system to this killing is disturbing and puts on display for the world the double standards that Black people and other people of color continue to face.”
Over the weekend, the Rev. Al Sharpton forcefully called on Bragg to take action against Penny.
Sharpton has made a point to bring the historic number of Black officials holding elected office in New York — Bragg and Adams among them — together at his National Action Network headquarters, making his call for action all the more notable.
“A mental issue on a train is not to be sentenced with death,” he said, referring to Neely’s history of interactions with the city’ social services organizations. “This man needs to be prosecuted.”
BIDEN HEADS TO THE MECCA
Biden is planning to deliver the commencement address this weekend at the spot known to this newsletter writer as “The Mecca,” but to the uninitiated: Howard University.
The White House confirmed the appearance over the weekend at a commencement scheduled for Saturday.
Yes, my alma mater, a historically Black university in Washington, D.C., has been a favorite backdrop for this administration in recent weeks. Last month, Vice President Kamala Harris, delivered remarks at her alma mater, blasting the Supreme Court and GOP lawmakers for pushing legislation that restricts reproductive health care. Those were her first public remarks since Biden announced their 2024 reelection bid on April 25.
HBCUs are a focal point for this administration as is its push to help advance educational opportunities and politics for the development of Black students. Actress Taraji P. Henson, yet another HU alum, sits on the board of the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence and Economic Opportunity through Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Biden’s speech at the HBCU comes as the president is also looking to shore up a voting bloc that was key in his White House victory three years ago. Then-President Barack Obama also delivered the commencement speech at Howard in 2016.
ICYMI @ POLITICO
It All Falls Down — So Ye, the politician, may be putting out the “Flashing Lights” of a help wanted sign. POLITICO’s Jessica Piper reports that the former treasurer for Ye’s still-active campaign account alleges an adviser to the rapper may have broken campaign finance law. Ye did say, “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” right?
Heard It All Before — WATCH how Biden, Trump, Obama all sound the same on debt limit
Mo Money Mo Problems — The debt talks today will test the new working partnership between Biden and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries with the global economy on the line. POLITICO’s Jennifer Haberkorn has more.
Congratulations — Our POLITICO colleagues — Josh Gerstein, Alex Ward, Peter Canellos, Hailey Fuchs and Heidi Przybyla — were Pulitzer finalists for their work covering the leak of a draft memo of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. While we didn’t take home the final prize, our colleagues' work covering an unprecedented moment in U.S. history will never be forgotten. CHEERS!
THE RECAST RECOMMENDS
Spend some time with Tsitsi Jaji’s poem, “Disaster” — a meditation on motherhood and the environment.
“Chile '76,” in theaters now, reflects on the brutal Pinochet dictatorship, following Carmen as she hides a wounded fugitive from the authorities.
Calling all “Atlanta” fans: Brian Tyree Henry stars in the suspense thriller “Class of ‘09,” streaming on Hulu tomorrow.
Alicia Keys joins forces with a 74-piece orchestra made up of women of color for a stunning re-record of “If I Ain’t Got You” for the release of “Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story.”
will.i.am and Lil Wayne team up for an energetic collab inspired by Formula 1.
TikTok of the Day: Revived