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Biden on immigration orders: 'I'm eliminating bad policy'

President Biden on Tuesday defended his early reliance on executive actions as he signed three more orders focused on immigration.

“There’s a lot of talk, with good reason, about the number of executive orders I’ve signed. I’m not making new law. I’m eliminating bad policy,” Biden told reporters in the Oval Office.

“What I’m doing is taking on the issues that, 99 percent of them, that the last president of the United States issued executive orders I thought were counterproductive to our national security, counterproductive to who we are as a country,” he added. “Particularly in the area of immigration.”

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Biden signed off on three orders on immigration. One established a task force focused on the reunification of migrant families separated at the southern border under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy.

The task force will be led by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasHillicon Valley: Privacy, immigrant rights groups slam 'smart wall' proposal | New DHS policies aim to fight cyber 'epidemic' | Twitter exploring allowing users to charge for content The Memo: Biden faces first major setback as Tanden teeters DHS Secretary Mayorkas announces new initiative to fight 'epidemic' of cyberattacks MORE, who was confirmed by the Senate earlier Tuesday. The order also revokes a measure signed by former President TrumpDonald TrumpDonald Trump Jr. calls Bruce Springsteen's dropped charges 'liberal privilege' Schiff sees challenges for intel committee, community in Trump's shadow McConnell says he'd back Trump as 2024 GOP nominee MORE that halted certain separations and called on Congress to address the matter.

“We’re going to work to undo the moral and national shame of the previous administration that literally, not figuratively, ripped children from the arms of their families, their mothers and fathers, at the border,” Biden said. “And with no plan, none whatsoever, to reunify the children who are still in custody and their parents.”

Another order directs agencies to undertake their own sweeping review of asylum policy in the U.S.

The orders nix a number of Trump immigration executive orders while directing the Department of Homeland Security to review policies that require immigrants to wait in Mexico while filing asylum claims and limit the opportunity to apply for asylum to those who passed through other countries in trying to reach the U.S. 

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It also outlines two prongs for dealing with migration patterns: a “root causes” strategy that primarily focuses on aid to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala and a “collaboration strategy” to expand pathways for those fleeing those countries to access resources in neighboring ones.

But it also opens more opportunities for people leaving those countries to join family members in the U.S. and suggests the Biden administration will expand the criteria for allowing people to apply for asylum in the U.S.

It requires evaluating “whether the United States provides protection for those fleeing domestic or gang violence” — a nod to those who have been denied asylum because they don’t fit into current protections for those fleeing racial, religious or political persecution.

A final order directs a review of Trump’s public charge rule, which limited immigration opportunities for those who might need to rely on assistance such as food stamps or other social programs.

The White House earlier in the day acknowledged the potential complications of reforming the immigration system at a time when migrants could seek to flee to the United States in search of safety and economic stability.

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“We want to put in place an immigration process here that can — that is humane, that is moral, that considers applications for refugees, applications for people to come to — into this country, at the border, in a way that treats people as human beings,” press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiBiden 'disappointed' in Senate parliamentarian ruling but 'respects' decision CORRECTED: Overnight Defense: COVID-19 stymies effort to study sexual assault at military academies | Biden, Saudi king speak ahead of Khashoggi report The Memo: Biden faces first major setback as Tanden teeters MORE said. “That's going to take some time. It's not going to happen overnight.”

Biden’s orders drew rebukes from conservative groups, which raised concerns about implementing changes to the immigration process in the middle of a pandemic and economic slowdown.

“As part of his ‘America Last’ immigration agenda, President Biden is gearing up to reverse existing policies that protect American taxpayers — and doing so at a time when a raging pandemic is forcing many Americans to rely on social safety nets that can barely keep up with the demands being placed on them,” Dan Stein, head of the Federation for American Reform, said in a statement.