Originally Published in USA Today
Rebecca Morin - February 2, 2021
President Joe Biden signed several executive orders Tuesday to combat several of the Trump administration’s hardline immigration policies, including introducing a task force Tuesday to reunify families and signing an executive order that reviews the “Migrant Protection Protocols.”
The task force, which will be led by the secretary of Homeland Security, will work to identify the children and parents or guardians who were separated at the border, facilitate and enable reunification of children with their families, and then provide a report to the president on recommendations to ensure that the federal government does not have policies in place that separate families, senior administration officials said.
"I’m not making new law," Biden said in the Oval Office as he signed the executive orders. "I’m eliminating bad policy."
There are still at least 628 parents who were separated from their children at the border that are still missing as of December. Former President Donald Trump’s administration had a “zero tolerance” policy that separated children and their parents or guardians at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, will chair the task force. Mayorkas was confirmed as DHS Secretary Tuesday, making him the first immigrant and first Latino to lead the department.
The Department of Homeland Security is responsible for counterterrorism, cybersecurity, border security, enforcement of the United States' immigration laws and more.
The task force, which will be comprised of government officials such the secretaries of State and Health and Human Services, will also consult and have input from individuals impacted by the policies.
“The biggest challenge faced by the task force is continuing to identify the children and families that continue to be separated and then making recommendations to finally unite them,” senior officials said.
The program forced migrants seeking asylum to wait in Mexican border cities while waiting to plead their case before a judge. While Biden’s administration previously halted the program, part of the review from the executive order will be to determine a process for those with active cases to pursue their cases and not “simply languish in Mexico while they await a decision or the opportunity to make their case,” senior administration officials said.