Watch CBS News

U.S. will not expel unaccompanied migrant children under Trump-era policy now being reviewed

Biden signs new immigration policies
Biden signs executive orders to undo several Trump immigration policies 08:34

The Biden administration on Tuesday said it will not summarily expel unaccompanied migrant children from U.S. borders and pledged to examine the unprecedented Trump-era policy, which was authorized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last spring.

As part of one of the executive orders he signed Tuesday, President Biden directed the CDC and the Department of Homeland Security to initiate a review of the policy, which allows U.S. border officials to swiftly expel migrants without a court hearing or an asylum interview.

While the Trump administration said the expulsions policy was necessary to prevent coronavirus outbreaks along the southern border, former CDC officials have told CBS News that the White House pressured the agency to approve the sweeping order, which invokes a late 19th century public health law.

Three federal judges have said the policy is likely unlawful and one ordered the government in November to stop using the CDC order to expel unaccompanied migrant children, who have special protections under U.S. law to shield them from trafficking and violence.

On Friday, a panel of circuit judges suspended the November court order, giving U.S. border officials the greenlight to expel unaccompanied minors once again.

In a statement to CBS News, however, a White House spokesperson said the administration's policy is "not to expel unaccompanied children who arrive at our borders," noting that Mr. Biden desires to approach immigration issues "comprehensively, fairly and humanely."

"The Border Patrol will continue to transfer unaccompanied children to the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement so they may be properly cared for in appropriate shelters, consistent with their best interest," the spokesperson added.

U.S. law requires border officials to turn unaccompanied migrant minors over to the Office of Refugee Resettlement within 72 hours of apprehending them, barring extraordinary circumstances. The refugee agency is charged with housing the children until they are placed with vetted sponsors, who are typically relatives residing in the U.S.

This process was suspended for most unaccompanied children after the enactment of the CDC expulsions order in March. Before the November court order shielding unaccompanied minors from expulsion, approximately 13,000 of these children, including victims of gang violence and abuse, were expelled to their home countries.

Representatives for the Department of Homeland Security did not return a request for comment.

Along with ordering a review of the CDC-authorized expulsions, Mr. Biden instructed his administration on Tuesday to consider ending several Trump-era asylum programs, including a policy of requiring non-Mexican asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases were reviewed. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.