President-elect Joe Biden, who during his campaign called President Donald Trump’s policy of separating migrant families “criminal,” said Friday that once he takes office, his administration will decide whom to punish.
“Another question about holding public officials to account, and this is about an issue that’s no longer a headline but is no less significant and serious — it’s about the more than 600 children who were orphaned under the Trump administration as a result of the family separation policy along the border,” a reporter said.
“During the campaign, you said that practice was criminal. Can you commit, will you commit, to making sure that the Trump administration officials responsible for that policy will be held to account?”
“I’ll commit that our Justice Department and our investigative arms will make judgments about who is responsible, how they’re responsible and whether or not the conduct is criminal, across the board,” Biden said.
“But as I said yesterday, I am not going to tell the Justice Department who they should prosecute and who they should not. That’s a judgment that will be made by the attorney general of the United States of America, not influenced by me.”
He said “there will be a thorough, thorough investigation of who’s responsible and whether or not the responsibility is criminal. And if that is concluded, the attorney general will make that judgment. I will not intervene to tell him who he should or shouldn’t indict, or if he should indict.”
Later in the news conference, Biden said he will make reversing Trump’s policies on illegal immigration a priority in his administration.
“I will introduce an immigration bill immediately and have it sent to the appropriate committees to begin movement,” he said. “I will, in fact, countermand executive orders that the president has, in fact, initiated that are contrary to what I think is either his authority, and/or, even if it’s his authority, contrary to the interests of the United States on environmental issues and a whole range of other things.”
Biden promised during the presidential campaign to undo Trump’s actions to secure the nation’s southern border.
On his campaign website, the Democrat pledged in his first 100 days to “[i]mmediately reverse the Trump Administration’s cruel and senseless policies that separate parents from their children at our border, including ending the prosecution of parents for minor immigration violations as an intimidation tactic, and prioritize the reunification of any children still separated from their families.”
Biden promised to end Trump-era policies, “starting with Trump’s Migrant Protection Protocols, and restore our asylum laws so that they do what they should be designed to do — protect people fleeing persecution and who cannot return home safely.”
However, wiping away those rules likely would engender a flood of illegal immigrants seeking to cross the border.
“Biden will have to say: We intend to do this, but we have to do it well so that we don’t re-create horrid conditions at the border. … I think people will give him a little bit of slack, but not for too long,” she said.
Those on the ground say caution is needed, particularly when attempting to revise policies such as the Migrant Protection Protocols that keep asylum-seekers in Mexico while U.S. courts decide their asylum cases.
“Just doing away with it will invite chaos,” Rodolfo Karisch, former chief of Border Patrol in Rio Grande Valley, South Texas, told The Post. He said the MPP process “has restored safety, allowed everything to catch up.”
“We still have COVID out there, so are we simply going to want to admit people who potentially have COVID into a country that already has high numbers?”
Karish summed up his advice to Biden in two words: “Proceed cautiously.”
“Rather than just coming in and saying, ‘We’ll scrap all this,’ look at which programs work and which ones you’ll want to change,” he said. “Because sometimes when you take an action, it can have unintended consequences, especially on the immigration side.”
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