Originally Published in The Hill
Brett Samuels - January 29, 2021
President Biden will announce on Tuesday the creation of a task force focused on reunifying migrant families separated at the southern border during the Trump administration.
The White House on Friday confirmed the timing of the announcement, which was postponed after Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) delayed a Senate vote on confirming Alejandro Mayorkas as secretary of Homeland Security.
"The president ... now plans to launch a task force on reunifying families and children, something that he’s personally committed to, something that his wife, Dr. Biden, is personally committed to and invested in," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a briefing Friday.
A memo outlining Biden's day-by-day plans for executive action in his first weeks in office indicated the president would sign immigration orders on Friday, including one establishing a task force to reunite families separated under former President Trump's "zero tolerance" policy implemented in 2018.
"We had planned to do it this week because we had hoped that Aly Mayorkas would be confirmed by the end of this week," Psaki said. "But because of the filibuster of his nomination, we expect him to be confirmed on Monday evening, and therefore the president will sign it on Tuesday. And then Secretary Mayorkas will be overseeing that moving forward."
"There's no question that we recognize that this is going to be incredibly challenging, that there will be a lot of work to be done," she added.
Hawley put a hold on Mayorkas's nomination earlier this month, citing concerns about enforcement of the Biden immigration agenda. The hold required an extra procedural vote, which Mayorkas cleared on Thursday. He is likely to get confirmed on Monday.
The order on family reunification was among the items White House chief of staff Ron Klain pledged in a memo Biden would take action on by Feb. 1.
Thousands of migrant children were separated from their parents at the southern border during the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy. Images of children being held in separate detention facilities sparked bipartisan outrage, eventually forcing Trump to halt the separations.
But the Trump administration struggled to reunite many families, and court documents released in October found that the parents of 545 of the separated migrant children still had not been found.