President Joe Biden signed three immigration-related executive orders in the Oval Office Tuesday, with the intent to ‘remove the stain’ of President Donald Trump’s policies like child separation.
‘And with the first action today, we’re going to work to undo the moral and national shame of the previous administration that literally, not figuratively, ripped children from the arms of their families, their mothers and fathers at the border, and with no plan, none whatsoever, to reunify the children who are still in custody and their parents,’ Biden said.
The new president, who has signed 43 orders since taking office, also pushed back on criticism he’s receiving from conservatives for the flurry of executive orders he’s signed since January 20.
‘I want to make it clear. There’s a lot of talk, with good reason, about the number of executive orders that I sign,’ Biden said. ‘I’m not making new law, I’m eliminating bad policy.’
President Joe Biden signed three executive orders on immigration in the Oval Office Tuesday. As he signed one setting up a task force to reunite separated children and their families he said his aim was to ‘remove the stain’ of Trump era policies
President Joe Biden (left) stands in the Oval Office alongside new Secretar of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas (right) before signing three immigration-related executive orders early Tuesday evening
One of the orders will put in place a working group tasked with reuniting migrant families separated by President Donald Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy, which some Republicans even criticized
Biden’s immigration executive orders
Joe Biden signed three executive orders on Tuesday to signal a new immigration policy:
- The creation of a task force to reunite children separated from their families at the border under Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy. This group will be chaired by a homeland security secretary;
- The evaluation of immigration programs including the Central American Minors Program established by Obama. This allowed children in Central America to legally reunite with parents in the US. The order will also review Trump’s ‘Remain In Mexico’ policy which left asylum seekers in poor conditions in Central America while they awaited US court hearings, and provide aid to help stop the causes of immigration;
- A review of Trump’s immigration policies by the State Department, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security to assess whether the laws promote ‘integration and inclusion’. The order will also call for a review of the naturalization process and the ‘public charge’ policy which punishes immigrants who use benefits by refusing their green card applications
In line with campaign promises, one of the orders will put in place a working group tasked with reuniting migrant families separated by Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy put in place in 2018.
That policy allowed officials to prosecute and deport adults who had entered the US illegally. Their children, some just days old, were then placed into federal custody.
A federal lawsuit in the Southern District of California has identified more than 600 children who were separated from their parents between 2017 and 2018 who still have not been reunited with their family.
Faced with international outcry, and even criticism from within his own party, the Trump administration was forced to scale down the policy, but hundreds of migrant children have still not been returned to their parents.
‘We’re gonna remove the stain on our reputation that the separations caused,’ Biden said as he inked the document on the Resolute desk.
‘As my grandfather said, the grace of God and the good will of neighbors, we will reunite these children and reestablish our reputation as being a haven for people in need,’ Biden added.
The working group will examine ways to reunite the families, officials said, without specifying whether that could allow parents or children who had been deported to return to US soil.
A second executive order echoes a similar policy under the Barack Obama administration, putting in place legal mechanisms for prospective immigrants in their home countries to apply for residency, allowing them to avoid dangerous smuggling routes.
The third decree will promote the integration of migrants legally settled in the United States and make naturalization ‘more accessible to the more than nine million immigrants who are currently eligible to apply’ for citizenship.
There will be a review of the so-called ‘public charge rule’ introduced in August 2019 that allowed officials to refuse citizenship or green card applications to migrants receiving social assistance, such as subsidized care or housing allowances.
The public charge rule ‘basically created or established a wealth test for immigrants,’ one senior Biden official said.
Under the public charge rule – which was seen as the work of controversial Trump aide Stephen Miller – green cards, the legal term for permanent residence and a preliminary to citizenship, could be refused to immigrants on a series of benefits.
They included Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, state general assistance payments, SNAP food stamps, Section 8 vouchers or rental assistance, public housing and federal Medicaid.
The Trump administration said the rule protected American taxpayers from subsidizing immigrants and made the country less attractive to poor immigrants.
But immigration groups called it cruel and fought it in the courts. The Supreme Court allowed it to stay in place but has not offered a final view of its legality.
The Biden administration is also set to order a review all legal obstacles to immigration and integration that were put in place under Trump – a wide-ranging order with effects that will only become clear in the next few months.
‘The review will likely lead to dramatic changes in policies,’ according to a senior government official, saying the goal is ‘to restore faith in our legal immigration system, and promote integration of Americans.’
The orders follow Biden suspending construction of Trump’s border wall.
‘President Trump was so focused on the wall that he did nothing to address the root cause of why people are coming to our southern border,’ the official said.
‘It was a limited, wasteful and naive strategy, and it failed.’
Most of the reforms will be led by Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, who was confirmed by the Senate earlier Tuesday.
The vote was 56 to 43.
Mayorkas stood in the Oval Office alongside Biden, late for his official swearing-in ceremony with Vice President Kamala Harris.
Shortly after his appearance in the Oval, Mayorkas appeared alongside Harris and his family members in the vice president’s ceremonial office, located in the nearby Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas (left) is sworn-in Tuesday night by Vice President Kamala Harris (right)
Biden will call for his administration to streamline the naturalization of nine million migrants. Pictured: Honduran migrants head to the US through Guatemala
Mayorkas – who arrived in the United States as an infant as the son of Cuban refugees – is the first Hispanic person to lead the Department of Homeland Security, a sprawling agency that oversees immigration issues, border police and emergency responses.
Biden joked as reporters entered that Mayorkas had an ‘easy job.’
The Biden administration’s efforts to overturn Trump-era immigration policies were applauded by the left wing of the Democratic Party.
Since coming into office he has canceled two of his predecessor’s landmark measures, suspending construction of a wall along the border with Mexico and lifting a ban on US entry for residents of a number of countries withmajority Muslim populations.
Biden has also sent a bill to Congress that could lead to the naturalization of millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States.
The legislation’s adoption, however, will require convincing several Republican lawmakers to back it – no easy feat.