White House details executive orders to create ‘humane’ system but warns it will not happen overnight.
US President Joe Biden on Tuesday will order a major review of asylum processing at the US-Mexico border and the asylum and legal immigration systems that will dismantle portions of former President Donald Trump’s hardline policies, according to a fact sheet circulated on Tuesday.
Biden planned to sign orders on family separation, border security and legal immigration, bringing to nine the number of executive actions on immigration during his first two weeks in office.
The fact sheet listed three goals: creating a task force to reunite separated families, developing a strategy to address irregular migration at the US-Mexico border and creating a “humane” asylum system, and restoring faith in the US legal migration system and integrating new Americans.
Alejandro Mayorkas, whose nomination as Homeland Security secretary awaits Senate confirmation, will lead the task force on family separation, focused largely on reuniting parents and children who remain apart.
It is unclear 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.
The review of border security includes a policy to make asylum seekers wait in Mexican border cities for hearings in US immigration courts.
It is a step towards 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.
The White House said it will “create a humane asylum system” by rescinding or reconsidering Trump policies that caused “chaos, cruelty and confusion”. It warned that it will take time, which may cause grumbling among some pro-immigration advocates.
The Trump administration faced numerous challenges to its migration and asylum policies in courts, which often found these rules illegal.
A judge in the DC District Court found in October that a US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) lesson plan for evaluating “credible risk” threats for asylum seekers was unlawful and placed “undue burden” on those attempting to find refuge in the US.
The Trump administration continued using the lesson plan after the court found it illegal, which required further legal challenges.
Advocates have told Al Jazeera that undoing all of the previous administration’s measures could take months, or years.
“There are so many things that they did comprehensively to prevent people from accessing the protections that are afforded to them under US and international law – that you cannot single out one single policy,” Tom Jawetz, an immigration expert at the liberal Center for American Progress think-tank, told Al Jazeera ahead of the fact sheet’s release.
“Their overlapping nature means that any single one of them can have a significant effect on its own,” he said. “All of them need to be addressed.”
The Biden administration knows this to be the case, especially at the US-Mexico border.
“The situation at the border will not transform overnight, due in large part to the damage done over the last four years.” the White House said in a statement. “But the President is committed to an approach that keeps our country safe, strong, and prosperous and that also aligns with our values.”