President Joe Biden is delaying executive orders to reverse Donald Trump‘s immigration policies, including the long-awaited announcement of a task force to reunite migrant families separated under the previous administration.
The reason for the delay is unclear.
A planning document circulated among officials this month indicated the immigration executive order would be unveiled on Friday, part of a series of executive orders President Biden is issuing in his first few weeks in office to counteract Trump policies.
But, as the document made the rounds, White House officials emphasized it was a draft with the dates not set in stone. However, a memo released by White House chief of staff Ron Klain ahead of Biden’s inauguration said a specific plan to reunite migrant families would come before February 1.
Sources involved with the immigration orders told NBC News the orders will be delayed ‘by at least a few days,’ but declined to say what is causing the delay.
As part of his immigration plans, Biden is expected to sign orders to increase refugee admissions, review limits on legal immigration, revoke some of the Trump administration’s asylum restrictions and establish a task force to reunite families separated by border officials.
The task force is expected to be an across-government effort with officials from the Department of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services and the State Department joining White House officials on the team.
President Joe Biden is delaying executive orders to reverse Donald Trump’s immigration policies with reason for delay unclear
Migrants cross the almost dry Tijuana River on the U.S.-Mexico border
Biden already has revoked some Trump era immigration policies.
On his first day as president, he halted border wall construction and rescinded travel and immigration restrictions on 13 countries, most of which are majority Muslim.
And, earlier this week, his Justice Department rescinded a Trump-era memo that established a ‘zero tolerance’ enforcement policy for migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, which resulted in thousands of family separations.
Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson issued the new memo to federal prosecutors across the nation on Tuesday, saying the department would return to its longstanding previous policy and instructing prosecutors to act on the merits of individual cases.
While the rescinding of ‘zero tolerance’ is in part symbolic, it undoes the Trump administration´s massively unpopular policy responsible for the separation of more than 5,500 children from their parents at the U.S-Mexico border.
Most families have not been prosecuted under zero tolerance since 2018, when the separations were halted, though separations have continued on a smaller scale.
The ‘zero tolerance’ policy was one of several increasingly restrictive policies aimed at discouraging migrants from coming to the Southern border. Trump´s administration also vastly reduced the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. and all but halted asylum at the border, through a combination of executive orders and regulation changes.
The policy was a disaster; there was no system created to reunite children with their families. A report from the Justice Department´s inspector general, released earlier this month, found that the policy led to a $227 million funding shortfall. Children suffered lasting emotional damage from the separations, and the policy was criticized as grossly inhumane by world leaders.
The delayed announcement from Biden includes the delay of a task force to reunite migrant families – above children at the Homestead Temporary Shelter in Florida
Children separated from their families at a facility in McAllen, Texas
The policy began April 6, 2018, under an executive order that was issued without warning to other federal agencies that would have to manage the policy, including the U.S. Marshals Service and Health and Human Services. It was halted June 20, 2018. A federal judge ordered the families to be reunited.
Biden also will unwind a Trump program known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP).
The Biden administration said last Wednesday it would end all new enrollments in the MPP program, which has forced more than 65,000 asylum seekers back to Mexico to wait for U.S. immigration court hearings. But it did not give more information on what would happen to the thousands of people currently in Mexico.
In the executive orders, Biden will call to end asylum agreements struck by the Trump administration with Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, Esther Olavarria, deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council, said during an event with the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Biden will also restore a program that allows certain children in the three nations to apply for refugee status in the United States from their home countries, according to Olavarria.
The orders will call for the strengthening of asylum protections in Mexico and other countries so that migrants can seek refuge ‘closer to home,’ she said.
Additionally, Biden plans to roll back a Trump rule that sought to block asylum seekers who pass through another country en route to the United States, according to a person briefed on discussions.
The Biden administration also will begin the process of reversing Trump’s ‘public charge’ rule, which makes it harder for immigrants who are poor or need certain government benefits to secure residency and stay in the country, according to two people familiar with the plans.
Biden is expected to lay out principles that will guide his administration’s global refugee policy in one of his executive orders.
He has pledged to raise annual refugee intake levels to 125,000, up from the record-low 15,000-person ceiling set by Trump for fiscal year 2021, which began on Oct. 1, 2020.