United States Is Reuniting Families Separated At Mexico Border During Trump Presidency
Four families that were separated at the Mexico border under the Trump administration are set to be reunited as the US begins to tackle such impacts of illegal immigration.
The children of the families are currently residing in the United States, and their parents will return to the country on humanitarian parole to be reunited with them this week.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas explained that two of families involve mothers – one Honduran and another Mexican – who were separated from their children in late 2017.
Some of the children involved were just three years old when they were split up from their parents, while others were ‘teenagers who have had to live without their parent during their most formative years’.
Mayorkas said these initial reunions are ‘just the beginning’ of a broader effort, ABC News reports, though the number of families that will be reunited is yet to be determined and is based on negotiations with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to settle a federal lawsuit in San Diego.
We continue to work tirelessly to reunite many more children with their parents in the weeks and months ahead. We have a lot of work still to do, but I am proud of the progress we have made and the reunifications that we have helped to achieve.
The process of bringing families together will see authorities considering longer-term forms of legal status for the families, according to Michelle Brane, executive director of the Biden administration’s Family Reunification Task Force.
Court filings cited by ABC News indicate that more than 5,500 children were separated from their parents during Trump’s time in office, dating back to July 1, 2017. The families set to be reunited this week were among the thousands separated under Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy to criminally prosecute any adult who entered the country illegally.
The Biden administration is now doing its own count on the number of separations, Brane said, and believes more than 1,000 families remain split.
Attorney Lee Gelernt described the reunifications of the four families as ‘the tip of the iceberg’, adding that the ACLU needs the Biden administration to ‘provide relief’ to all of those who remain separated, ‘including providing them a permanent pathway to citizenship and care’.
The upcoming reunions stem from the work of the Family Reunification Task Force, which is housed in the Department of Homeland Security and has been sifting through thousands of records and correcting issues in existing files.
Mayorkas praised the efforts of the force, saying:
Since the executive order was signed, the task force has been working to identify parents and children separated by the prior administration, establish a system to reunite them safely, and ensure they are provided support after the traumatic experience they endured.
As part of the effort to reunite families, the DHS is working on accepting parole requests while the Department of Health and Human Services is developing services to support families, and the State Department is creating a streamlined system to process in-country travel document requests.
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