US President Joe Biden has signed three executive orders seeking to reunite immigrant families divided by Trump-era policy, and has also ordered a review of his predecessor’s broader immigration agenda.
In an effort to deter illegal immigration, President Donald Trump’s administration separated illegal adults from children as they crossed the US-Mexico border.
Under Biden’s executive orders, a task force will be set up to try to reunite 600 to 700 children who are still separated from their families.
The Trump administration separated at least 5,500 children and adults along the border between 2017 and 2018.
The administration of US President Barack Obama – of whom Biden served as his deputy – also separated children without documented immigration from adults at the border, although it is believed that this was a rare occurrence.
Under Biden’s order, an interagency task force will be formed – led by the recently assumed Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayurcas, to oversee the family reunions.
The second and third orders Biden signed on Tuesday are to review Trump’s immigration policies that have reduced asylum, slowed legal immigration to the United States, and removed funding to foreign countries.
At Tuesday’s White House press conference, Press Secretary Jane Psaki said the administration is committed to building an “ethical” and “humane” immigration system.
Under the “zero tolerance” policy the Trump administration publicly adopted on immigration in April 2018, illegal adult immigrants who crossed the US-Mexico border were charged and imprisoned.
These crimes were previously treated as civil violations.
Because children of migrants who were prosecuted could not be legally accused of any crime, they were not allowed to imprison them with their parents, which resulted in the children being placed in shelters or foster homes.
Pictures and videos of children sleeping on mats in crowded detention facilities sparked an uproar nationwide, prompting Trump to halt the policy in June.
Last week, the Biden Administration’s Justice Department formally rescinded that policy.
Who decided to separate immigrant families in the United States?
It penned the fenced containers, in which some children were held during the Obama presidency. Around 60,000 unaccompanied minors were arrested at the southern border and held in these cells during just one summer in 2014.
Obama-era officials said that migrant family separations rarely occurred during his presidency, for example, in cases where there was reason to suspect trafficking in persons, although the exact numbers are unclear.
Obamas top immigration adviser, Cecilia Munoz – who in 2011 championed the separation of immigrant families as the inevitable result of a “broken system” – has served on Biden’s presidential transition team.