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Biden team downplaying action on immigration, say some moves will ‘take time’

President-elect Joe Biden’s “day one” agenda just got a little lighter.

Amid first-day plans to make us all wear masks, let transgender children pick their own bathrooms, rejoin the Paris climate accords, force Catholic nuns to buy contraception through their healthcare plans and allow unfettered access to our shores to residents of designated terrorist states, Biden had pledged to reverse many of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

Now, though, some of those can apparently wait.

Susan Rice, Biden’s incoming domestic policy adviser, and Jake Sullivan, his national security adviser, told Spanish media that the administration will delay immediate action on some Trump programs.

“We will be able to take some steps to change policies right away,” Rice told the Spanish news service EFE, according to an account of the interview posted on Fox News’ website Tuesday.

“Others will take time to put in place,” Rice continued, “and the situation at the border will not transform overnight due in large part to the damage done over the last four years. But we are committed to addressing it in full.”

Specifically, Biden promised to make the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, or DACA program, which allows 700,000 illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to remain in the country.

Biden also pledged to end the Migrant Protection Protocols, which requires asylum-seekers at the southern border to remain in Mexico until their case is adjudicated.

That seemed a no-brainer since allowing them to wait in the United States increased the odds that they would ignore future court proceedings and simply slip into society. On the other hand, proponents of Biden’s plan argued isolating them in Mexico was riskier and dangerous.

In January, Biden had tweeted, “Donald Trump has slammed the door shut in the face of families fleeing persecution and violence. On day one, I will eliminate President Trump’s decision to limit asylum and end the MPP program.”

Yet, acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan recently said, “If MPP is to go away it’ll be absolutely devastating.”

“MPP has been a disaster from the start and has led to a humanitarian crisis in northern Mexico. But putting the new policy into practice will take time,” Sullivan told EFE. “The current administration dismantled much of the necessary capacity to ensure the safe and orderly processing of migrants. We need time to increase processing capacity and to do so consistent with public health requirements.”

Rice also said the Biden administration will not immediately ditch a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order that permits the government to cite public health concerns as a reason to ship migrants back to their home countries in short order – in some cases, within hours.

“Processing capacity at the border is not like a light that you can just switch on and off,” Rice told EFE. “Migrants and asylum seekers absolutely should not believe those in the region peddling the idea that the border will suddenly be fully open to process everyone on Day 1. It will not.”

“Our priority is to reopen asylum processing at the border consistent with the capacity to do so safely and to protect public health, especially in the context of COVID-19,” she added. “This effort will begin immediately but it will take months to develop the capacity that we will need to reopen fully.”

The pair called for patience on another Biden priority: creating a pathway to citizenship for the reported 11 million illegal immigrants now in the country.

“We need legislative changes to make enduring repairs to our immigration system,” Rice said, “and the president-elect will share his vision with Congress.”

But that will likely get tougher if the Republicans retain the two Senate seats being contested in Jan. 5 runoff elections.


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