President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed a second spate of orders to undo his predecessor’s immigration policies, demonstrating the powers of the White House and its limitations without support from Congress.
His orders on family separation, border security and legal immigration bring to nine the number of executive actions on immigration during his first two weeks in office. With proposed legislation to give legal status and a path to citizenship to all of the estimated 11 million people in the country who don’t have it, Biden has quickly taken aim at many of former President Donald Trump’s sweeping changes to deter immigration, both legal and illegal, and established a vision that is likely to far outlast his tenure if he’s able to muster enough support in a deeply divided Congress.
Biden rescinded some Trump actions and laid a foundation for more far-reaching repeals depending on the outcome of policy reviews over the next few months.
“I’m not making new law. I’m eliminating bad policy,” he said during a signing ceremony.
Alejandro Mayorkas, who was sworn in as Homeland Security secretary after his nomination was confirmed Tuesday by the Senate, will lead a task force on family separation, focused largely on reuniting parents and children who remain apart. It is unclear exactly how many, but about 5,500 children have been identified in court documents as having been separated during Trump’s presidency, including about 600 whose parents have yet to be found by a court-appointed committee.
“We’re going to work to undo the moral and national shame of the previous administration,” Biden said.
The review will address the possibility of legal status in the United States for separated families and providing mental health services.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which sued to reunite families, has asked the administration for legal status in the United States for all of the thousands of families that have been separated, as well as financial compensation for those families and attorneys at government expense.
A review of border security will include a policy that makes asylum-seekers wait in Mexican border cities for hearings in U.S. immigration court. It is a step toward fulfilling a campaign pledge to end the “Remain in Mexico” policy, known officially as Migrant Protection Protocols, which enrolled nearly 70,000 asylum-seekers since it began in January 2019. Biden asked for “a phased strategy for the safe and orderly entry into the United States” of those already enrolled who are waiting in Mexico for a judge to decide their cases.