WASHINGTON – The Biden administration will reunite four separated migrant families under the Trump administration this week, while its reunification task force estimates more than 1,000 families remain separated, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on Sunday. .
The four families include at least one child who was separated from their parent at the age of 3 and at least two women who were separated from their children at the end of 2017 – as part of a pilot program for the Former President Donald Trump’s 2018 “zero tolerance” policy. .
But immigrant advocacy organization Al Otro Lado, or AOL, said the Biden administration takes credit for the reunifications it has done little to facilitate.
“Despite what Secretary Mayorkas would have the public believe, DHS has done nothing to facilitate the return and reunification of these parents this week, other than to agree to allow them in. The only reason why these mothers will show up at the port of entry is because Al Otro Lado negotiated their travel visas with the Mexican government, paid for their plane tickets and organized the reunification, ”said Carol Anne Donohoe, lawyer in charge of the Al Otro Lado family reunification project.
While the Biden administration withholds many details about the families for confidentiality reasons, Mayorkas said one of them was from Honduras and another from Mexico. Their children are in the United States, but their parents were deported during the Trump administration, Mayorkas said.
The parents will be granted humanitarian parole to return to the United States, said Michelle Brané, executive director of the Biden Reunification Task Force.
Brane said the task force is “studying the longer-term status” of the parents so that they can stay and work in the United States.
Mayorkas said: “We continue to identify families who were intentionally separated under the previous administration.”
Donohoe said it was not difficult to find parents who were separated from their children and willing to reunite with them.
“We represent over 30 other parents who, like these mothers, were ready to return on the first day of Biden’s presidency. DHS would have you believe this is an incredibly complex task, but AOL, with our limited resources, has already reunited almost 40 deported parents with their children. There is no reason, other than lack of political will, for DHS to put these families through yet another day of separation and torture, ”Donohoe said.
DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Pro bono lawyers who were part of a lawsuit against the Trump administration were solely responsible for family tracing and reunification until the Biden task force announced in February.
Lawyers said they still had not been able to get in touch with the parents of 302 children, leaving one wondering exactly how many families remain separated.
The Trump administration separated more than 5,500 migrant families in 2017 and 2018 to deter the migration of families across the southern border. Most of the families separated under the official “zero tolerance” policy in May and June 2018 were reunited in the following months.
But many parents separated from their children before zero tolerance, during the 2017 pilot program, were deported before being reunited and their records lost. Brané said there are “1,000 families that we know of who remain separated or who we believe remain separated.”
The Biden administration is negotiating with lawyers representing families over protections for deported parents who wish to locate their children in the United States.
The American Civil Liberties Union’s immigrant rights project deputy director Lee Gelernt, an attorney representing families separated in the lawsuit, said the reunification of four families was a start.
“We are happy that the first four families are reunited this week, but this is only the start of a very long process involving more than 5,500 children,” Gelernt said.
Brané said negotiations between the government and lawyers representing the families in the trial slowed the reunification process.
“This is the first group, and we have others that are under review, so we hope that in the weeks and months to come, the reunifications will continue until a larger formal process. be announced, ”she said.