Biden to sign executive orders on family separation and asylum


President Joe Biden on Tuesday will sign executive orders to launch a long-awaited task force to reunite families separated at the border under the Trump administration, as well as begin a review of a Trump-era program that has forced tens of thousands people to remain in Mexico while their asylum cases are processed.

It’s part of Biden’s latest effort to undo former President Donald Trump’s immigration legacy and offer a sharp change in rhetoric on the issue. But the contents of the three forthcoming executive orders are a reminder that undoing Trump policies and crafting new ones will take time. The new orders largely call for policy reviews, planning and recommendations on next steps — not necessarily new policies to implement.

“Fully remedying [Trump’s] actions will take time and require a full government approach,” an administration official said in a briefing with reporters on Monday night.

“But President Biden has been very clear about restoring compassion and order to our immigration system and correcting the divisive, inhumane and immoral policies of the last four years,” the official said, adding that Biden’s action, so far, was “just the beginning.”

Trump took more than 400 immigration-related executive actions while in office. Meanwhile, Biden on his first day in office released a comprehensive immigration reform plan and signed several immigration-related executive orders to stop further construction of the border wall, emphasize commitment to preserving the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and end Trump’s so-called Muslim ban.

On Tuesday, Biden will sign an executive order that starts a family reunification process, one of his signature campaign promises. The Trump administration oversaw the separation of more than 5,500 families — and estimates show that the parents of more than 600 children have still not been located.

The task force will first work to identify all children separated from their parents at the border because of the family separation policy under Trump, according to details shared by administration officials and in a fact sheet. It will then make recommendations to Biden and federal agencies on steps they can take to reunify families. And it will provide reports and recommendations on steps to prevent family separation policy from happening again.

Administration officials’ description of the task force falls short of what immigrant advocates and human rights groups have been urging the Biden administration to do. The ACLU has called on the Biden administration to allow families to settle in the U.S., be given some type of legal status and offer funds for basic needs and medical care.

Officials did not rule it out, but specified that each case will be reviewed on an individual basis.

“There’s no ‘one solution fits all,’” an administration official said.

Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security, will lead the task force. Mayorkas is set to be confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday afternoon. The vice chairs of the task force will be Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and the Health and Human Services secretary — and other members will be government officials. The confirmation process for Biden’s pick to run HHS, Xavier Becerra, has been held up in the Senate, and there’s no timing on when he will be confirmed.

Biden will sign another executive order focused on revamping the U.S. asylum system and how it handles migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. It directs Mayorkas to review the Migrant Protection Protocols program, which has forced asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while they wait for their U.S. court proceedings. There’s a backlog of thousands of cases. Last week, the DHS under Biden announced it would not enroll anyone else into the program.

The president will sign a third order to promote immigrant integration and inclusion. It will also instruct agencies to review the public charge rule that allowed officials to deny green cards to immigrants who used — or are considered likely to use — public assistance.

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