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President Trump defended his now-reversed family separation policy at the third presidential debate Thursday, claiming children were brought to the U.S. "by coyotes and lots of bad people," while Joe Biden said it "violates every notion of who we are as a nation."

Driving the news: A court filing revealed this week that the U.S. government cannot locate the parents of 545 migrant children separated under a 2017 pilot program as part of President Trump’s immigration policy. The number of parents who are currently considered “unreachable” is larger than was previously known.

The big picture: Trump tried to tie the policy to Biden and the Obama administration, asking, "Who built the cages, Joe?" But cases of children being separated from parents at the border were very rare during the Bush and Obama presidencies.

What they're saying: Asked if his administration has a plan to find the parents of the more than 500 migrant children, Trump responded: "Yes, we're trying very hard. But a lot of these kids come out without the parents. They come over through cartels and through coyotes and through gangs."

  • He added of the migrant detention centers: "They are so well taken care of. They're in facilities that were so clean."

Biden responded: "These 500-plus kids came with parents. They separated them at the border to make it a disincentive to come to begin with." 

  • "It's not coyotes didn't bring them over. Their parents were with them. They got separated from their parents and it makes us a laughingstock and violates every notion of who we are as a nation."

Asked about record deportations under the Obama administration, Biden acknowledged that they made a "mistake" on immigration policy and that "it took too long to get it right."

  • "Within 100 days, I'm going to send to the United States Congress a pathway to citizenship for over 11 million undocumented people," Biden pledged.
  • "And all of those so-called DREAMers, those DACA kids, they're going to be immediately certified again to be able to stay in this country and put on a path to citizenship."

Go deeper

Jan 23, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden speaks to Mexican president about reversing Trump's "draconian immigration policies"

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Ismael Rosas/Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

President Biden told his Mexican counterpart, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, on a phone call Friday that he plans to reverse former President Trump’s “draconian immigration policies.”

The big picture: The Biden administration has already started repealing several of Trump’s immigration policies, including ordering a 100-day freeze on deporting many unauthorized immigrants, halting work on the southern border wall, and reversing plans to exclude undocumented people from being included in the 2020 census.

The front-runners for Biden's Supreme Court pick

Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson (left) and Justice Leondra Kruger (right) Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images and Lonnie Tague, US Department of Justice

Two highly accomplished Black female judges — Ketanji Brown Jackson, a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals; and Leondra Kruger, a justice on the California Supreme Court — are seen as the early front-runners to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

The big picture: Jackson is a powerful federal judge with a record that progressives feel they can trust. Kruger was a highly regarded litigator and has carved out a reputation for working well with conservative judges.

Fed: Rate hikes are near

The Federal Reserve's headquarters building. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The Federal Reserve is on track to raise its main target interest rate in mid-March, as Chair Jerome Powell pledged to be "humble and nimble" in adapting policy to a fast-changing economy.

Why it matters: Fed leaders are looking to choke off inflation by raising interest rates in the near future, but keeping its options open for how fast and far the effort will go.