Biden to nix border wall, ‘Muslim ban’ on first day in office

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President-elect Joe Biden plans to reverse a number of immigration actions taken by the Trump administration on his first day in office, including immediately pausing construction of the border wall and putting a stop to the so-called Muslim travel ban.

After being sworn in on Wednesday afternoon, Biden will revoke the emergency proclamation that sped construction of a wall along the border with Mexico. He will also reinstate normal visa processing practices with 13 countries, many with Muslim-majority populations.

“This ban, which restricted issuance of visas to individuals from many Muslim and African countries, was nothing less than a stain on our nation. It was rooted in xenophobia and religious animus and, President-elect Biden has been clear that we will not turn our back on our values with discriminatory bans on entry to the United States,” Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser-designate, said on a call with reporters.

Beyond immigration measures, Biden will also expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and ensure that undocumented immigrants are counted in the census.

By ending the national emergency declaration Trump used to justify his signature border wall, Biden will spike a provision that allows greater flexibility in how government money can be used to fund it.

“The proclamation will direct an immediate pause in wall construction projects to allow a close review of the legal basis for the funding, as well as the contract methods being used, and it will determine the best ways to redirect funds that were diverted by the Trump administration to fund wall construction,” Sullivan said.

The move could potentially freeze nearly $1.4 billion in funds set aside for the wall by Congress, already a sticking point in the confirmation of Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden’s nominee to lead the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

“What I would need to do is to understand what the law provides with respect to the obligation of funds to construct a border wall, and then see what the opportunities are to discontinue any such obligations, if in fact the law permits, and act accordingly,” Mayorkas said in response to a question from Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).

Hawley has since placed a hold on Mayorkas’s nomination, arguing the former DHS deputy secretary “declined to say he would enforce the laws Congress has already passed to secure the border wall system.”

The transition team also said Biden would draft a new civil immigration enforcement policy, putting an end to the “harsh and extreme immigration enforcement” seen under Trump.

“I just want to emphasize that the Biden administration is going to have a very different approach to regional migration,” Sullivan said.

“President-elect Biden is also committed to rebuilding the nation’s asylum system to make it more efficient, fair and humane. The Biden-Harris administration will work to ensure that those who are in need of protection can be expeditiously identified and provided relief at the border, while those who do not qualify for asylum are removed in a dignified and humane manner.”

Many of those efforts will be rolled out in a separate immigration bill Biden plans to submit to Congress, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented residents, help clear the immigration backlog for those seeking to join family members in the U.S, and increase aid El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras in an effort to reduce migration.

The incoming administration was also slim on details on how it would revise the DACA program, saying only that it is committed to “preserving and fortifying” the program that allows children brought into the U.S. by their parents the chance to get a work visa.

“Legal challenges by those opposed to DACA continue, and thus it remains at risk,” said Susan Rice, whom Biden has tapped to lead the White House Domestic Policy Council.

“The presidential memorandum also calls on Congress to enact legislation, providing permanent status and a path to citizenship for people who came to this country as children and have lived, worked, and contributed to our country for many years.”

Tags Alejandro Mayorkas Jake Sullivan Joe Biden Josh Hawley Susan Rice

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