Posted on February 4, 2021

Biden Signs Executive Orders on Family Separation and Asylum

Sabrina Rodriguez, Politico, February 2, 2021

President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed executive orders to launch a long-awaited task force to reunite families separated at the border under the Trump administration, as well as begin a review of a Trump-era program that has forced tens of thousands of people to remain in Mexico while their asylum cases are processed.

It’s part of Biden’s latest effort to undo former President Donald Trump’s immigration legacy and offer a sharp change in rhetoric on the issue. But the contents of the three executive orders are a reminder that undoing Trump’s policies and crafting new ones will take time. The new orders mostly call for policy reviews, planning and recommendations on next steps — not new policies to implement in the immediate term.

“I’m not making new law. I’m eliminating bad policy,” Biden said after signing the orders in the Oval Office.


“Fully remedying [Trump’s] actions will take time and require a full government approach,” a senior administration official said in a briefing with reporters on Monday night.


On Tuesday, Biden signed an executive order that starts a family reunification process, one of his signature campaign promises. {snip}

The task force will first work to identify all children separated from their parents at the border under Trump, according to the executive order text. {snip}

It will then make recommendations to Biden and federal agencies on steps they can take to reunify families. Some of those options include: granting them “parole,” which, if granted, allows noncitizens to either enter or remain in the U.S. for specific reasons or issuing visas. {snip}


The task force, as first described by senior administration officials, falls short of what immigrant advocates and human rights groups have been urging the Biden administration to do. The ACLU has called on the Biden administration to allow families that were separated to settle in the U.S., be given some type of legal status and have access to funds for basic needs and medical care.


Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden’s secretary of Homeland Security, will lead the task force. {snip}


Biden signed another executive order on Tuesday focused on revamping the U.S. asylum system and how it handles migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. It directs Mayorkas to review the Migrant Protection Protocols program, which has forced asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while they wait for their U.S. court proceedings. There’s a backlog of thousands of cases. Last week, the DHS under Biden announced it would not enroll anyone else in the program.

The second order also asks for a review of better ways to identify and process people from the Northern Triangle countries who are eligible for refugee resettlement to the U.S. The DHS secretary will also evaluate whether to reverse a 2017 decision from Trump to rescind the Central American Minors Program, which allowed certain children to settle with family members in the U.S.

The president signed a third order that orders a review of policies and guidelines that have set up barriers to the U.S. legal immigration system and made it more challenging to get green cards or become a naturalized American citizen. It also aims to promote immigrant integration and inclusion. And that same order instructs agencies to review the public charge rule that allowed officials to deny green cards to immigrants who use public assistance.