Seeking to reverse the harsh immigration policies of former President Trump, President Joe Biden signed three executive orders Tuesday, Feb. 2 aimed at reunifying families separated at the border, addressing the root causes of migration and reviewing the naturalization process. Despite Biden’s swift actions to establish a more humane approach to immigration, hundreds are still being deported in his presidency’s early days according to the Associated Press.
The Executive Orders
While the three orders Biden signed on Tuesday signify a commitment to directly reviewing policies, CNN reports that the executive orders won’t have an immediate impact.
“I’m not making new law; I’m eliminating bad policy,” Biden told the press at the White House Tuesday. “This is about how America’s safer, stronger, more prosperous when we have a fair, orderly and humane legal immigration system.”
On his first day as President, Biden signed a slew of executive actions, stopping Trump’s border wall-building project, repealing Trump’s restrictions on travel from Muslim-majority countries and counting undocumented immigrants in the Census.
Tuesday’s orders add to that list — including a task force focused on reunifying families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border during Trump’s controversial “zero tolerance” policy. Newly confirmed Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas will chair the task force. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and the Health and Human Services secretary will be the vice-chairs. First lady Jill Biden is also expected to take a role in the task force according to CNN.
Lawyers are reportedly unable to reach the parents of 611 children who were split from their families between 2017 and 2018, which Biden called a “stain” on the country’s reputation. The Justice Department officially rescinded the policy last week, even though it had already ended.
The second executive order will focus on the source of migration: Central America. It will provide support to the region to combat corruption and work to mitigate the flow of migrants through the U.S.-Mexico border by providing other pathways to get into the U.S. This order will work to revive the Central American Minors (CAM) parole policy that Trump nixed in 2017, which allowed some at-risk youths to come to the U.S.
The order also directs Homeland Security to review Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, which required migrants to stay in Mexico until the date of their immigration court appearance in the U.S., leaving many in dangerous and inhumane conditions. Biden’s administration has already stopped new people from being added to the program but has not yet addressed how it will deal with the thousands of migrants still waiting in Mexico. The Trump-era public health order that led to migrants being immediately expelled at the border is also under review, as is the “expedited removal” procedure that allows officials to remove people without a hearing from an immigration judge. The order also says the U.S. intends to suspend and terminate agreements with Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador that allowed it to send asylum seekers to those countries instead of admitting them into the U.S.
The third executive order will reestablish a Task Force on New Americans, which will help integrate and include immigrants. It seeks to reverse the Trump-era public charge rule that makes it more difficult for immigrants to get government aid like Medicaid and food stamps. It will also review the overall naturalization process with the intention of making it more streamlined, expedient and accessible.
The Reality of Continued Deportations
Biden’s actions have suggested a commitment to re-evaluating the U.S.’s formerly strict immigration laws, but in the meantime, hundreds of immigrants have been deported in his administration’s early days.
Last week, a U.S. District Judge ordered Biden not to enforce the moratorium on deportations. Judge Drew Tipton issued a temporary restraining order on behalf of Texas, suing against a Department of Homeland Security memo that directed immigration agencies to pause most deportations. The ruling, however, did not require the government to actually schedule these deportations, according to the AP. Recently, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deported 15 people to Jamaica on Jan. 28 and 269 to Guatemala and Honduras on Jan. 29. More are reportedly scheduled.
It is unclear whether any of these migrants are security threats or if they entered the country recently. The AP says some may have been expelled under Trump’s public health order that is still in place — a process that can take effect significantly quicker than formal deportation.