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How Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, from swing state Nevada, views immigration

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) speaks at a news conference to mark the 10th anniversary of the "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals" (DACA) at the U.S. Capitol on June 15, 2022 in Washington, D.C.
Anna Moneymaker
Getty Images
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) speaks at a news conference to mark the 10th anniversary of the "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals" (DACA) at the U.S. Capitol on June 15, 2022 in Washington, D.C.

Updated March 18, 2023 at 10:42 AM ET

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada is one of very few Democrats to oppose the lifting of the pandemic-era immigration restriction, saying "I thought they were wrong."

Title 42, the pandemic-era restriction that has made it easier for the United States to remove people who cross the border illegally, is expected to come to an end in May.

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Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada is urging President Joe Biden to be ready.

She's among a handful of Democrats that opposed the Biden administration's attempts to get rid of Title 42, which eventually failed in court.

"I am very open with the administration, and I thought they were wrong - told them that - to repeal 42 without a plan because I knew there would be a large surge at the border. And we have seen that. It was an ineffective proposal."

Preparing for an increase in border crossings

Cortez Masto believes that both her Republican and Democrat colleagues in the Senate wish to see more money used to deal with an increase in migrant crossings at the border.

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"We have to put funding into the border there, where we have more funding for immigration judges. We have more funding for that orderly process that needs to go through. We have to make sure we're addressing the needs for inspection. We have to make sure that we have more ability to process some of the detainees. So there is a way to do it as long as we're all focused together moving forward."

Family detention

Cortez Masto is warning the Biden administration not to put harsher immigration measures in place as a deterrent, after reports that the government is considering resuming Trump-era family detentions.

"It was wrong under Trump and it's wrong now. There was a proposal for a transit ban, to me, again, wrong proposal. That's a piecemeal solution to a broken immigration system."

Immigration reform

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Cortez Masto has her own ideas on how to reform that system.

While some Republicans focus on preventing immigrants from committing crime, she's looking to pass legislation to protect immigrants from crime.

She reintroduced the Fairness for Immigrant Families Act this week, her long standing bill that aims to protect undocumented immigrants from fraud.

"I know too many families that literally were taken advantage of, which has implicated their ability to get on track for permanent residency."

She's talking about so-called notario fraud, where criminals use confusion over the Spanish translation of the word to pretend that they are immigration lawyers, rather than simply notaries.

Cortez Masto's bill would also make it more difficult for immigration officials to deport parents of children who are U.S. citizens.

The prospects of bipartisan immigration legislation

The Senator hopes that enough of her Republican colleagues actually want to see reform that it could pass, rather than focusing on keeping immigrants out.

"I suspect that's what some of the right-wing are saying, just keep everybody out. Shut the borders, nobody comes in. But that's not all of my colleagues that I am talking to, including some Republicans."

Saying that America's asylum process "doesn't work", Cortez Masto believes that's another area that could see bipartisan progress.

"I've heard that from my colleagues, both Republicans and Democrats, that we've got to fix the asylum process."

The audio of this story was edited by Adam Bearne and produced by Claire Murashima. contributed to this story

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Adam Bearne
Adam Bearne is an editor for Morning Edition who joined the team in August 2022.
Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.