President Joe Biden formally issued a proclamation on Thursday to terminate a national emergency declaration on the US-Mexico border issued by former President Donald Trump as part of an effort to fund his long-promised border wall.
The former president declared a national emergency along the southern border in 2019, invoking emergency powers that allowed him to use more money than Congress had approved in its spending deal for construction projects along the southern border.
By formally terminating the declaration, Mr Biden was effectively taking one step further towards reversing his predecessor’s hardline immigration agenda, after having previously signed multiple executive orders aimed at reforming the immigration system.
The White House formally notified Congress of the proclamation this week, noting the president issued the directive in January upon taking office.
“Like every nation, the United States has a right and a duty to secure its borders and protect its people against threats. But building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border is not a serious policy solution,” the proclamation, signed on Mr Biden’s first day in office, reads, adding: “It is a waste of money that diverts attention from genuine threats to our homeland security.”
The proclamation calls for a pause in construction and funding of the border wall, and directs the secretaries of defence and homeland security to assess the legality of the funding and contracting methods.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said separately on Thursday many migrants believe the "doors are open" to the United States following the recent election of Mr Biden, while warning that wasn't true and urging migrants not to believe traffickers who tell them they can get legal status immediately.
He noted that he welcomed Mr Biden's policy proposal, but that it would take time to be approved and implemented.
"Now, for example, that there is a U.S. immigration policy to regularise the situation of migrants, Mexicans and our Central American brothers, people think that now the doors are open, that President Biden is going to immediately regularise all migrants," the Mexican president said.
"It is not true that everyone can go now to the United States and they will be regularised, that has not been defined yet," he said. "Our brother migrants should have this information so that they won't be deceived by human traffickers, who paint a rosy picture."
The Mexican leader also cited the recent massacre of 19 people, including at least 14 Guatemalan migrants, as justification for his policy of stopping Central American migrants at Mexico's southern border.He said the massacre showed that it was too dangerous to allow migrants to travel through drug-cartel turf in northern Mexico.
"This was always our argument, that we need to protect migrants, watch out for them," he said. "If they enter (Mexico) and spread out, we cannot keep an eye on them or protect them, and they wind up in the hands of organised crime, they are in danger."
Under pressure from Mr Trump in 2018 and 2019, the Mexican president posted thousands of immigration, military and National Guard agents at Mexico's border with Guatemala to stop caravans of Central American migrants from entering the country.Rights activists say Mexico's policy has exposed migrants to additional dangers, including excessive use of force by law enforcement forces, extortion by criminal gangs and violations of their human rights.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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