President Biden Begins With Executive Immigration Roll Back

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U.S. President Joe Biden signs an executive order in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON, D.C. Fri. Jan. 22, 2021 (Reuters) – President Joe Biden in his short time in office already has taken executive action of some of Donald Trump’s draconian immigration actions.

Biden ended Trump’s travel ban on people entering the United States from 13 countries, most of which are Muslim-majority, a policy that the court upheld in 2018 as a legitimate exercise of presidential power after a vigorous legal fight.

Biden also terminated Trump’s intention to exclude immigrants who live in the United States without legal status from the 2020 census count, a plan that critics said was intended to cost Democratic-leaning states seats in the U.S. House of Representatives to the benefit of Republicans. The justices in December threw out litigation challenging Trump’s plan, but his administration missed deadlines and failed to put the policy in place.

The Supreme Court last June decided that Trump’s plan to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program – which protects eligible Dreamers from deportation and provides them work permits – ran afoul of a federal law called the Administrative Procedure Act.

But the court has never ruled on whether DACA itself, which Obama created by executive action in 2012 after bypassing Congress, represented a lawful exercise of presidential power. Three of the Supreme Court’s conservative justices have deemed DACA “substantively unlawful” and a challenge brought by Paxton is pending in federal court in Texas.

Biden’s executive actions could also make some existing cases at the Supreme Court vanish. In one order, Biden stopped construction of the border wall, one of Trump’s signature projects. The justices are scheduled to hear arguments on Feb. 22 on whether Trump overstepped his constitutional powers by diverting military funds to pay for the wall.

Biden is also seeking to end Trump’s “remain in Mexico” policy that barred thousands of migrants at the U.S.-Mexican border from entering the United States while their asylum claims were being assessed. The justices are due to hear litigation over the matter on March 1 but could end up dismissing it in light of the policy reversal.

“Courts know that a change of administration often means a change in policy and don’t want to decide things unnecessarily,” said Jonathan Adler, a professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law in Cleveland.

The Supreme Court is also weighing whether to hear appeals launched by Trump of lower court rulings against his regulation that barred immigrants deemed likely to require government benefits from obtaining legal permanent U.S. residency. Biden’s Justice Department could withdraw those appeals, leaving the rulings against the policy in place.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)