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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

Updated Dec 2, 2020 - Politics & Policy

The top Republicans who have acknowledged Biden as president-elect

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Some elected Republicans are breaking ranks with President Trump to acknowledge that President-elect Biden won the 2020 presidential election.

Why it matters: The relative sparsity of acknowledgements highlights Trump's lasting power in the GOP, as his campaign moves to file multiple lawsuits alleging voter fraud in key swing states — despite the fact that there have been no credible allegations of any widespread fraud anywhere in the U.S.

Biden plans to ask public to wear masks for first 100 days in office

Joe Biden. Photo: Mark Makela/Gettu Images

President-elect Joe Biden told CNN on Thursday that he plans to ask the American public to wear face masks for the first 100 days of his presidency.

The big picture: Biden also stated he has asked NIAID director Anthony Fauci to stay on in his current role, serve as a chief medical adviser and be part of his COVID-19 response team when he takes office early next year.

What COVID-19 vaccine trials still need to do

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

COVID-19 vaccines are being developed at record speed, but some experts fear the accelerated regulatory process could interfere with ongoing research about the vaccines.

Why it matters: Even after the first COVID-19 vaccines are deployed, scientific questions will remain about how they are working and how to improve them.