Washington, Feb 2 (efe-epa).- US President Joe Biden acted Tuesday on his promise to dismantle the immigration policies of his predecessor, Donald Trump, by announcing a set of orders aimed to reunite separated families, restore the asylum system and address the causes of migration with regional partners.
Biden signed the measures hours after the Senate confirmed Cuban-American Alejandro Mayorkas as the first Latino and first immigrant to head the Department of Homeland Security. Mayorkas, 61, who came to the country in 1960, will effectively be Biden’s executing hand.
“I’m not making new law. I’m eliminating bad policy,” Biden said during a brief ceremony in the Oval Office, in which he congratulated Mayorkas on his confirmation and put him at the forefront of his government’s effort to get his ambitious immigration bill passed in Congress.
Biden indicated that with these orders he seeks to rebuild and strengthen the immigration system based on the executive orders he announced on his first day in the White House.
On Day 1, the Democratic leader suspended the construction of the border wall with Mexico, lifted the ban on the arrival of migrants from countries with Muslim-majority populations, and safeguarded the DACA program, which protects 650,000 undocumented young people – known as “Dreamers” – from deportation.
The president was addressing many of the executive orders promulgated by his predecessor and that he considered to be “counterproductive to our security, counterproductive to our country.”
First, the president signed an order to create a taskforce that will aim to reunite children who were separated from their parents after crossing the US border under the Trump administration.
“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 while signing the order.
The taskforce will work with representatives of the affected families and regional allies to find the parents of children who are still in government custody.
The separation of thousands of immigrant families who crossed the US border with Mexico illegally was one of the Trump administration’s most controversial decisions.
The “zero tolerance” policy toward undocumented immigration was announced in April 2018 although it began as a pilot program in July 2017.
A ruling by a US court in June 2018 halted the implementation of this policy and it was subsequently estimated that about 2,551 separated children were covered by the court order.
A group of lawyers appointed by a federal court to find the parents and reunite them with their children said that they have not been able to locate the parents of 545 children separated from their families between 2017 and 2018.
Another one of the orders Biden signed is aimed at addressing the root cause of migration and creating a regional framework.
In a statement, the White House said that “the Administration will collaborate with regional partners, including foreign governments, international organizations, and nonprofits to shore up other countries’ capacity to provide protection and opportunities to asylum seekers and migrants closer to home.”
“The Administration will ensure that Central American refugees and asylum seekers have access to legal avenues to the United States,” it added.
The order also directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to review the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program, also known as the “Remain in Mexico” program, under which more than 60,000 asylum seekers have been sent back to Mexico while they await their immigration proceedings.
Biden had already ordered the suspension of that program.
Finally, the third executive order “requires agencies to conduct a top-to-bottom review of recent regulations, policies, and guidance that have set up barriers to our legal immigration system,” the White House said, especially the “public charge” rule, aimed at penalizing legal immigrants who use public benefits.
The order is aimed at “restoring faith in our legal immigration system and promoting strengthening integration and inclusion efforts for new Americans,” Biden said. EFE-EPA