On February 2 President Biden signed three new executive orders, starting to move toward reuniting migrant children with their parents, rebuilding a working asylum system, and restoring opportunities for foreign workers and students to come to the U.S. But there is much to do to rebuild an asylum and refugee system the can process large numbers of people . Resolving the situation of migrants living in squalor on the Mexican side of the border and locating separated parents and children could take months or even years.
Mr. Biden said the orders would begin to address “the root causes” of migration toward the southern border and begin a review of the Trump administration’s destructive immigration policies. “I’m not making new law. I’m eliminating bad policy,” he said. The orders work through task force investigation and evaluation, which will be done under the leadership of Alejandro N. Mayorkas, Biden’s pick for the secretary of homeland security, the first Latino and the first immigrant to hold that job. But one order did direct Mayorkas to immediately stop two Trump programs that put migrants on a fast track to deportation.
Still the Migrant Protection Protocols that forced migrants to wait in Mexico until their cases are processed in court have not been officially ended, though Biden has suspended new entries to the program and is planning to work with organizations in Mexico to identify the most vulnerable asylum seekers who would be processed first.
The administration’s decision to move cautiously reflects the difficulty of unwinding Trump’s immigration rules, many hidden in “regulatory dark matter” as well as Mr. Biden’s concerns about the spread of coronavirus and a rush of migration at the southern border.
But Mr. Biden must balance this measured approach with immigration advocates’ urging to move to quickly open the U.S. to immigrants after four years of Trump restrictions. Pablo Alvarado, who directs a day laborers organizing network and helped campaign with Biden in battleground states is already worried. “Why is it when it comes down to immigrants, not the issue but the people, they are not willing to fight as they fight for other things?” he said.