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President Biden on Tuesday signed a trio of executive orders to reverse the immigration policies of former President Donald Trump, continuing his brisk shift of policies by the stroke of a pen.
Biden signed orders to end a 2018 “zero tolerance” policy on prosecuting illegal border crossings and to seek unification of parents with children detained at the border.
He also signed an order requesting a comprehensive review Trump-era immigration policies,
“There’s a lot of talk, with good reason, about the number of executive orders that I signed. I’m not making new law, I’m eliminating bad policy,” Biden told reporters in the Oval Office.
“The last president of the United States issued executive orders I felt were very counterproductive to our security, counterproductive to who we are as a country, particularly in the area of immigration.”
Biden was joined in the Oval Office by Vice President Kamala Harris and his just-confirmed Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who was approved by the Senate in a 56-43 vote on Tuesday.
“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 and mothers and fathers at the border, and with no plan, none whatsoever to reunify children,” Biden said.
Biden has signed 25 other executive orders since taking office on Jan. 20, including orders to halt construction of Trump’s US-Mexico border wall and to affirm the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that grants work permits and protection from deportation to people brought illegally to the US as children.
The zero-tolerance policy reversed by Biden was implemented by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and contributed to a surge in separation of immigrant families due to the parents being detained separately.
The Justice Department said in December that attorneys have been unable to locate the parents of more than 600 children apprehended at the border. Biden’s new executive order establishes a task force that will review family separations and reunification.
Biden’s order requesting a review of Trump immigration policies requires a specific reivew of Trump’s “public charge rule” that prevents immigrants on public assistance from receiving a green card.
The new president has reversed a range of other Trump policies by executive order, including ending a visa ban on a group of predominately Muslim countries including Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen that Trump said was about national security. Biden said it was in fact a ban targeting Muslims.
Biden said Tuesday that his new orders are “building on the executive actions I took on day one to protect Dreamers, and to end the Muslim ban and to better manage our borders,” he said.
The White House has requested that Congress pass legislation providing a pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 illegal immigrants currently in the US, though a grand immigration deal has failed to materialize for decades.
Biden took no reporter questions in the Oval Office, but he said Mayorkas would work with Congress to promote “the immigration bill that has I think great support in both chambers.”
Some of Trump’s immigration and border polices remain in force, with Biden officials expressing concern about triggering a flood of new migrants to the border.
Mayorkas assured senators at a confirmation hearing last month that a plan to end the Trump-brokered “Remain in Mexico” policy requiring Central Americans to await an asylum decision in Mexico won’t necessarily happen immediately. He urged people not to rush to the border hoping for more favorable treatment.
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