Jul 26, 2023 - Podcasts

How courts are driving U.S. immigration policy

This week, a California judge struck down the Biden administration’s new asylum policy. And, the Justice Department is suing Texas over placing barriers in the Rio Grande to stop migrants from crossing into the U.S.

Guests: Axios' Stef Kight, University of Southern California's Darby Saxbe and Well.Guide's Israa Nasir.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Alexandra Botti, Fonda Mwangi, Lydia McMullen-Laird and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Wednesday, July 26.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Today on the show: the rise of “therapy speak.” Plus, UPS and its workers reach a deal.

But first: how courts are driving U.S. immigration policy. That’s today’s One Big Thing.

NIALA: Earlier this week the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the State of Texas for putting up barriers in the Rio Grande River to stop migrants from swimming across. And just yesterday, a California judge struck down the Biden administration's temporary restriction on migrants seeking asylum. Both of these instances cited violation of federal laws. But the federal government's immigration policy and migrants access to protections are often at the whim of U. S. courts. Here to help us dig deeper is Axios immigration reporter, Stef Kight. Hi, Stef.

STEF KIGHT: Hi, Niala.

NIALA: Can you just catch us up on the situation with migrants right now at the southern border?

STEF: So over the past couple months, the number of migrants and asylum seekers illegally crossing the U. S. - Mexico border has actually declined pretty significantly, and this is way different than what a lot of experts were expecting after the end of the pandemic policy called Title 42, which ended back in May. In June, we had less than 100, 000 people illegally cross the border, which was the first time we were under 100, 000 since 2021.

NIALA: Why did the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, put up barriers in the Rio Grande River?

STEF: Obviously Greg Abbott does not think that President Biden is doing enough at the border that he's still letting in too many migrants, too many asylum seekers. And so Abbott has kind of taken it into his own hands.They've been increasingly using barbed wire along the border. There's been reporting that state police have been yelling at migrants to turn around, and we've seen more and more reports of them taking these aggressive strategies to try to keep migrants and asylum seekers back.

NIALA: So on what grounds is the Justice Department filing a lawsuit against the state of Texas because of this?

STEF: So the Biden administration is really focusing on the fact that, you know, this is in territory that could move into international waters. Mexico has been very upset with the fact that the barrier has been placed in the Rio Grande. And so the Biden administration really has focused on that particular move.

NIALA: And in California, a judge actually struck down the Biden administration's temporary restriction on migrants seeking asylum. What were the restrictions for?

STEF: Essentially how this rule works is if a migrant illegally crosses the border and hasn't first applied for protection in one of the countries they traveled through to get to the U. S., they are automatically rejected from asylum. Democrats and immigration advocates have said that this looks like a Trump policy, and now a court is saying, yeah, you actually can't block people from accessing asylum because of these reasons.

NIALA: And so what does that tell you about the role courts are playing right now in immigration policy?

STEF: The fact that we're seeing courts weigh in so frequently just shows how difficult it is to navigate the fact that our U. S. laws when it comes to immigration are extremely outdated. Congress hasn't gotten together and created new laws that adjust to the fact that we have new kinds of immigration, new kinds of demographics, and so administrations don't have many options, and when they do decide to move forward, we're seeing increasingly courts are going to weigh in.

NIALA: Stef Kight is a politics reporter at Axios covering immigration. Thanks, Stef.

STEF: Thanks, Niala.

NIALA: A few headlines we’re following:

President Biden signed a proclamation yesterday to create a new national monument for Emmett Till and his mother Mamie Till-Mobley. Till was tortured and murdered by white supremacists in Mississippi in 1955 when he was just 14. His mother’s insistence in an open casket at Till’s funeral helped spur the Civil Rights movement. The monument will be in three different locations: a church in Chicago where the funeral was held, and at two additional sites in Mississippi.

UPS reached a tentative deal with its Teamsters union yesterday… avoiding a much-feared strike from the union’s 340,000 workers. The deal increased wages for all workers, raising the starting rate for part-time workers from $15 to $21 an hour and bringing the average top rate for full time workers to $49 per hour… That makes them the highest-paid delivery drivers in the US, the union said, and creates more full time jobs and increases workplace protections.

And finally, the Department of Education is investigating Harvard University over its use of legacy admissions, and whether it racially discriminates by favoring applicants with connections to alumni, as well as donors. Students with these ties are six to seven times more likely to be admitted than other applicants, and are nearly 70% white, according to the complaint filed by three civil rights groups.

After the break, the pros and cons of so-called therapy speak.

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today, I'm Niala Boodoo. The Biden administration proposed new rules yesterday to push insurers to increase coverage of mental health treatments. As for millions of Americans, finding treatment can be a challenge.

PROFESSOR DARBY SAXBE: We have a huge shortage of providers and we also have high costs. And a lot of mental health treatments aren't covered by insurance.

NIALA: That's Darby Saxbe, a psychology professor at the University of Southern California.

DARBY: There's a real hunger for people to gain more insight into their own mental health and more tools that they can use in their relationships or in their daily life. So you have this need or this craving for insight into mental health without necessarily having easy ways to kind of hook into reliable treatment.

NIALA: Social media has entered the scene with mental health advice, with terms frequently used in a therapy context like boundaries or triggering, and that’s showing up more and more in daily speech.

DARBY: So this sort of whole lingo with words like toxic has kind of just seeped into our popular consciousness.

NIALA: To dig deeper into this idea of so-called therapy speak and the effect of social media as a place for mental health advice... therapist and author Israa Nasir is here with me. Hey Israa, can you explain what you think this term therapy-speak means?

ISRAA NASIR: So therapy-speak is any concept from psychology, human behavior and development that is meant to be used in a clinical environment with your therapist or mental health provider that is now being used in day to day conversations. So it's been taken out of the context and being put into personal relationships and work relationships. And sometimes can lose its true meaning.

NIALA: Right. And so as we're seeing these words and these concepts being used. In almost everyday language on Instagram or TikTok or any social media site, what do you think are the effects of hearing those words outside of a professional psychological setting?

ISRAA: The positive is that it has given language to a lot of, vague, nebulous behavior and emotions. So one part of therapy-speak as a benefit is that it's improved emotional awareness. So it's given people this language to describe what's going on. But on the flip side, which is the con, is that people are misusing it because sometimes these concepts are a little more complex and nuanced, and so they're being used inappropriately, and they are causing miscommunication, and sometimes they are being weaponized.

ISRAA: like narcissism. It's used so commonly but it's such a complex personality disorder. That when it's used, in day to day, I always wonder like, how much does this person really know about the person they're labeling?

NIALA: You use social media to educate people about mental wellness. How often are you encountering other accounts online giving mental health advice but not professional?

ISRAA: I would say there's a lot out there where people are not mental health professionals or even healthcare professionals, who are providing a lot of emotional wellness, mental health content, and they are using this language so that it gives them legitimacy in their videos on social media.

I've seen a lot of non clinicians call themselves trauma informed, but to be trauma informed, you have to be trained in treating trauma. And they have no background whatsoever. That is one way therapy-speak has been weaponized. People are monetizing it. They're creating entire brands and businesses out of it but I think that that can have a lot of harm.

NIALA: What's your advice then for navigating through social media sites and finding good sources of information about this?

ISRAA: What I personally do is if I come across a site or an account, I always look that person up by their name. I try to read any reviews on their practice, see if there have been any media outlet for anything. You just want to do your due diligence. take five minutes out, do a quick scan, see what people are saying about them, see how they respond to people in comments, and then make your decision based on that.

NIALA: How do you think people should be using Therapy Speak? Should they be using it at all?

ISRAA: I think for some of the less complex things, I think it's okay to say, “Hey, I'm feeling emotionally overwhelmed”, right? If you are labeling other people, or you're using diagnostic language, then I feel like that is not appropriate. So if you're using it to describe yourself and you have an understanding of yourself, then that's okay. But saying you are a narcissist who is gaslighting me, can be contested, right? Because it's subjective. So maybe avoid that.

NIALA: Israa Nasir is a therapist, author of the soon to be released book, “Toxic Productivity,” and founder of Well.Guide, a digital mental wellness brand. Thanks Israa!

ISRAA: Thank you.

NIALA: One last note before we go: we're running a listener survey to get to know you better and keep improving Axios Today, and we’d love your feedback! Plus you'll be entered to win a $50 Amazon gift card. You can find the link to the survey in our show notes. Thanks so much.

That’s it for us today!

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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