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Biden signs orders to 'reunify' families at U.S.-Mexico border

By
Jean Lotus
President Joe Biden signs executive orders to reform the U.S. immigration system Tuesday. Pool Photo by Doug Mills/UPI
President Joe Biden signs executive orders to reform the U.S. immigration system Tuesday. Pool Photo by Doug Mills/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 2 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden signed a series of executive orders on Tuesday to reform the federal government's immigration policy, which the White House says is designed to keep families together, streamline legal migration and study unlawful border crossings.

Biden has already signed multiple executive orders related to immigration since he took office on Jan. 20, but Tuesday's actions represent the most concerted federal effort yet to reunite migrant families who were controversially separated under former President Donald Trump's "zero tolerance" policy.

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Prior to signing the measures, Biden addressed comments about the number of executive orders he has signed since taking office, saying he was not making new laws but "eliminating bad policy."

"This is about how America is safer, stronger and more prosperous when we have a fair, orderly and humane legal immigration system," he said.

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Reuniting migrant families

The presidential actions included a task force to "reunify families," the White House said in a statement Tuesday. It aims to "find parents and children separated by the Trump administration" and will ultimately recommend steps to "prevent such tragedies from occurring again."

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A Justice Department filing in December said at the time that more than 600 parents of migrant children, who'd been separated at the U.S.-Mexico border, were still missing.

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Advocates have estimated that more than 5,600 migrant families were separated at the border after the Trump administration imposed its hard-line immigration policy.

"[Biden] has made clear that reversing the Trump administration's immigration policies ... is a top priority," the White House said.

"This task force will work across the U.S. government, with key stakeholders and representatives of impacted families, and with partners across the hemisphere to find parents and children [who are] separated."

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Addressing unlawful migration

Biden also took action to address regional migration across the southern border from Central America by rolling back the former administration's policies for asylum seekers. Included in the effort is a directive to review and reform Trump's "remain in Mexico" program, which forced refugees to physically stay in Mexico while their cases are heard in the United States.

The White House said Biden's aim is to create a "humane asylum system" after years of "chaos, cruelty and confusion."

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Biden's plan in this effort has three parts -- studying underlying causes of migration, working with foreign governments and groups to improve conditions nearer to migrants' native countries and ensure that Central American refugees have access to legal U.S. entry.

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"The situation at the border will not transform overnight ... but the president is committed to an approach that keeps our country safe, strong, and prosperous and that also aligns with our values," the White House said.

Enhancing legal immigration

Biden will also take action designed to "restore faith" in the immigration system and "promote integration of new Americans."

The president will re-establish the White House Task Force on New Americans, a government-wide effort designed to integrate migrants and refugees into U.S. communities.

The task force was originally created by former President Barack Obama.

"President Biden believes that immigrants are essential to who we are as a nation and critical to our aspirations for the future," the White House said.

The order intends to make sure the U.S. immigration system operates "fairly and efficiently" and calls for a "top-to-bottom review of recent regulations, policies and guidance that have set up barriers" to legal migration.

The White House said the order will also "streamline the naturalization process" to create a path to citizenship for more than 11 million undocumented migrants in the United States, rescind Trump's mandate requiring family sponsors to repay the government if relatives receive public benefits and instructs agencies to review the public charge rule.

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"President Biden's strategy is centered on the basic premise that our country is safer, stronger, and more prosperous with a fair, safe and orderly immigration system that welcomes immigrants, keeps families together, and allows people -- both newly arrived immigrants and people who have lived here for generations -- to more fully contribute to our country.

"New Americans fuel our economy, as innovators and job creators, working in every American industry, and contributing to our arts, culture, and government."

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Housing and Urban Development Secretary. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki (L) looks on as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Fudge, the first Black woman to lead the department in decades, speaks at a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo

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