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Morning news brief

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Along with the COVID-19 public health emergency, the pandemic border policy known as Title 42 ended last night.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The policy was used to quickly expel migrants without letting them seek asylum. The Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, announced new limits for asylum seekers now that Title 42 is gone.

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ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS: People who arrive at the border without using a lawful pathway will be presumed ineligible for asylum.

FADEL: Immigrant advocates quickly sued to block the requirements, saying they violate U.S. immigration law.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Joel Rose was at the border when Title 42 expired. He joins us now from El Paso, Texas.

Joel, let's start with the lawsuit. Who filed, and what does it say?

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Yeah. Immigrant advocates did not waste any time. Just as Title 42 officially expired last night, the ACLU and other immigrant advocacy groups filed to reopen an existing case before a judge in California. They're challenging a new Biden administration rule that makes it much harder for migrants to get asylum if they cross the border illegally after passing through Mexico or another country without seeking protection there first. Advocates say this is nearly identical to previous attempts to restrict access to asylum during the Trump administration that were blocked in court and that it's legal to seek asylum in the U.S. no matter how you arrived in the country.

MARTÍNEZ: So how does Biden administration respond to that?

ROSE: Well, the administration disputes that this rule is the same as Trump's because it has some exemptions and because it's paired with new legal pathways as well. And I would expect the administration to defend this rule vigorously in court because it is a key component of how they plan to manage the border going forward.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So speaking of the border, you're there at the very moment that Title 42 expired. What did you see?

ROSE: Well, in El Paso, we saw a few hundred migrants lining up on the banks of the Rio Grande in front of a gate in the border wall, trying to turn themselves into the Border Patrol. There were similar scenes in Arizona. In south Texas, migrants waded through the river to try to reach U.S. soil. Overall, though, there was no sudden rush on the border at the moment that Title 42 lifted, like some had been anticipating. However, we know that there are still tens of thousands of migrants who are in northern Mexico hoping for a chance to seek asylum. And we really don't know what they're going to do next.

MARTÍNEZ: What are you hearing from migrants?

ROSE: We did talk to some migrants in Juarez, just across the border in Mexico, yesterday, and they do seem very aware that Title 42 is over. We talked to a young woman named Alejandra Gonzalez, who fled from Venezuela with her husband and her stepson. They tried to turn themselves in to the Border Patrol in El Paso before Title 42 ended. She says they waited for days in the sun outside of the wall on U.S. soil but never got a chance to turn themselves in. Now they are back in Juarez, sleeping in a tent on the street, and they're afraid to try crossing again.

ALEJANDRA GONZALEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

ROSE: "Because if we turned ourselves in, we might be deported," she says, "or detained and jailed. And I feel a lot of doubt and fear." And I think that's where a lot of migrants are today. They're confused, and they are fearful about what comes next.

MARTÍNEZ: And there was one other legal development last night in Florida. Joel, what can you tell us about that?

ROSE: Yeah. A federal judge in Florida blocked the Biden administration from releasing migrants from custody without a court date. Normally, immigration authorities do give migrants a date to appear in immigration court before releasing them. But the Biden administration has sometimes released migrants under what's known as parole, with instructions to check in later with immigration authorities. And they do this in order to alleviate overcrowding in Border Patrol facilities. And immigration authorities had been preparing to do that again if necessary. But a judge in Florida issued a temporary restraining order putting that idea on hold for at least two weeks.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. That's NPR's Joel Rose from El Paso, Texas.

Joel, thanks.

ROSE: You bet.

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MARTÍNEZ: On Sunday, voters in Turkey will head to the polls in a closely watched and possibly historic election that will determine who will lead a major U.S. strategic security partner in NATO.

FADEL: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is looking for another five years in office. He's led the country for two decades, often butting heads with Turkey's partners in NATO, and he's been amassing power over his country's courts and media, sometimes jailing dissenters. But he faces a tough challenge from an opposition leader presenting himself as a low-key, moderate alternative to Erdogan's fiery populism.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Peter Kenyon joins us now from Istanbul.

Peter, how are people feeling about the two main candidates?

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Well, there is a real sense of excitement about the race in general. I've seen it on the streets when I'm out getting people's opinions. Voters have been hearing all along that this race is too close to call. There's no way to be absolutely sure of that because Turkish polls are not especially reliable. But there's no question that the main challenger, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, is presenting Erdogan with perhaps his toughest reelection bid yet.

Now, yesterday, one of the other candidates announced he was dropping out. It's too late to remove his name from the ballot. Some are wondering if that means his supporters could switch their votes to Kilicdaroglu. Would that push him over the top? So that's another thing to watch for on Sunday.

MARTÍNEZ: I know Erdogan's been very dominant in Turkey. How did he end up in such a close race?

KENYON: Well, that's an interesting question. He was first elected in 2002 to be prime minister after an earthquake killed some 17,000 people and crushed the economy. Erdogan came in as a reformer. He championed poor and working-class Turkish people, and they loved him, a devout Muslim leader who cared about their needs. But later, Turkey's strong economy that he had been riding began to slump, and soaring inflation left families really struggling. And that continues.

Some economists say this was Erdogan's own fault. He's always championed lowering interest rates to spur growth no matter what. He defied the conventional economic wisdom that you need to raise interest rates to fight inflation. On other issues, Erdogan grew more authoritarian after a failed coup in 2016. He jailed tens of thousands of people, sometimes on very scant evidence. And then there was this year's devastating earthquake that killed more than 50,000, left millions homeless. Erdogan has admitted the government's response was slow and inadequate.

Now, for his part, Kilicdaroglu is promising to tackle inflation, improve Turkey's relations with the West. Whether that means he might give up this Russian missile system that Washington has been demanding he do remains to be seen.

MARTÍNEZ: So given, then, Erdogan's expansive powers, are people worried about how he might handle a loss?

KENYON: Some are. His supporters expect him to accept the results, but others are more worried. Would he call on his supporters to take to the streets and protest if he loses, for example? Now, in the past, Erdogan has nullified local elections when his candidates lost. When voters in largely Kurdish areas elected Kurdish leaders, Erdogan sacked them by decree and installed ruling party officials instead. Critics have said Erdogan tends to follow democratic norms when it suits him.

MARTÍNEZ: So when are we likely to know the results of Sunday's vote?

KENYON: Well, there's a good chance we will begin to start seeing some results by 8 or 9 Sunday night. That's Turkish time, if past elections are any guide. And, of course, under Turkish election law, if nobody gets more than 50% of the vote - that's 50% plus at least one vote - there has to be a runoff of just the top two candidates. And that would be something that would be likely to happen on May 28.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. NPR's Peter Kenyon.

Peter, thanks.

KENYON: Thank you.

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MARTÍNEZ: Historic in magnitude - that's how new research describes just how much learning students missed during the pandemic.

FADEL: The researchers reviewed a mountain of data covering nearly 8,000 school districts to create the clearest picture yet of which students were hit hardest and why.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Cory Turner joins us now.

Cory, how much learning do researchers think students have missed out on?

CORY TURNER, BYLINE: Yeah. The average student, A, in grades third through eighth missed half a year of math, and in reading, they missed a quarter of a year. And that's according to researchers at Harvard's Center for Education Policy Research and Stanford's Educational Opportunity Project. Now, not surprisingly, wealth and poverty played a big role here. By last year, a student in the poorest 10% of districts had missed twice as much math learning as her peers in the richest districts. Researchers say students of color were also more likely to be hit hard. And, obviously, these differences come on top of already large opportunity gaps between our most- and our least-privileged students.

MARTÍNEZ: And what about schools being remote for long periods of time? I mean, what effect did that have?

TURNER: Yeah, a big one. I put that question to Tom Kane. He's one of the researchers in a professor at Harvard.

TOM KANE: There's no question in places where schools were remote or hybrid longer, students lost more ground. And that was particularly true in high poverty districts.

TURNER: So, for example, A, in districts where schools were remote for nearly all of the 2020-21 school year, students missed nearly twice as much math as districts that had stayed largely in person. But this is key here. School closures were only part of the story. The researchers found other community-level factors beyond school that also affected how much kids did or didn't learn.

MARTÍNEZ: Other factors - what kind of other factors?

TURNER: Well, so students missed more learning in places with higher COVID death rates and where adults were more likely to say they were feeling depressed or anxious about the pandemic. On the other hand, students missed less learning in places where people were more likely to vote or respond to the U.S. Census. In their brief, the researchers explained that one by saying living in a community where more people trust the government appears to have been an asset to children during the pandemic. They also found that social activities, like going out to dinner or meeting a friend in public, were intertwined with kids' learning.

Tom Kane told me, basically, the places where life was more disrupted saw bigger losses. And finally, A, they looked at earlier test score drops before the pandemic, you know, when a single district may have been hit by a local flu outbreak or maybe too many snow days. They wanted to see if kids naturally made up that ground over time. Here's Sean Reardon. He's another one of the researchers on the project and a professor of education and sociology at Stanford.

SEAN REARDON: And what was striking and surprising and a little sobering was that when there's a big decline in one year, those cohorts don't seem to catch up for the three or four years that we can follow them into the future.

TURNER: So, Reardon warns parents and public officials shouldn't just assume that schools can make up for all that lost ground because history shows in those test scores, without a concerted effort, much of it will just stay lost.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. NPR's Cory Turner.

Cory, thanks.

TURNER: You're welcome, A. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.