CBS’s Margaret Brennan Presses Speaker Johnson On Biden Request For More Immigration Judges

During an interview which will air in its entirety on CBS’s Face The Nation, CBS News Chief Foreign Correspondent and Face The Nation moderator Margaret Brennan pressed Speaker Mike Johnson on the need to fund more immigration judges so as to address the backflow of asylum claims, as our southern border remains collapsed under the pressure of the ongoing migrant surge.

Watch the interview segment in its entirety, as aired on CBS News Prime Time with John Dickerson on Wednesday, January 3rd, 2024:

JOHN DICKERSON: CBS News Chief Foreign Correspondent and Face The Nation moderator Margaret Brennan spoke with Speaker Johnson in Texas. He insisted that despite legal, logistical and diplomatic efforts, executive action by President Biden would make quick progress at the border. 

SPEAKER MIKE JOHNSON: On his first day in office, President Biden came in and issued executive orders that began this chaos. Remain in Mexico is one of them. The catch and release program has created part of this problem. You could end catch and Release.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you need the logistical and financial support to do that. You need the judges. You need to be able to process people. We’ve spoken to federal agents about just that challenge. 

JOHNSON: Yeah. Well, we…

BRENNAN: Congress has the purse strings to give them the money to do that. 

JOHNSON: That’s true. I’ll quote to you the Deputy Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol. As he said, it is as if we’re trying to administer an open fire hydrant. He said, “I don’t need more buckets, I need for the- I need the flow to be turned off.” And the way you do that is with policy changes. We’re just asking the White House to apply common sense. And they seem to be completely uninterested in doing so. 

BRENNAN: Speaker of the House Mike Johnston says he does want a deal, but he has not been read in on what the White House is negotiating with the Senate. You heard him mention a return to that Trump-era Remain in Mexico policy, which requires migrants to wait outside the U.S. while their claims are adjudicated. Tonight, a Biden administration official told me that while nothing is off the table, the administration needs Mexico’s help and is not going to, quote, “stuff things down their throats”. As for the asylum hearings, well, there are fewer than 800 immigration judges in this country dealing with nearly 3 million pending cases. The White House funding request would help hire more judges and clear that backlog. John.

DICKERSON: Margaret Brennan on the border for us. Thank you, Margaret.

“Funding the judges” is, of course, the Biden White House talking point on how to mitigate the ongoing disaster. As the rationale goes, dramatically expanding the amount of immigration judges will significantly cut down the waiting time for asylum seekers, who are now getting court dates in 2035. The flip side of funding the judges is that quick, streamlined adjudication will only expedite the flow of migrants into the United States.

Johnson rightly points out that Biden devoted his Day One to the unwinding of his predecessor’s border policy. That, combined with a prior signaling that was taken as an invitation, is what leads to the current situation. 

Brennan and Johnson are on two different wavelengths here. On the one hand, Brennan is pressing for Johnson to allow the “purse strings” to fund Biden’s immigration judges. On the other, Johnson has a House-passed border security bill (HR2) in hand that fixes a lot of what is wrong with our existing immigration system and addresses the current migrant crisis. As Brennan points out, White House and Senate are negotiating this thing on their own. 

Despite what Brennan would have you believe, the problem with our current system isn’t the backlog. It’s the failure to enforce existing law.

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