Originally Published in The Hill
Joseph Choi - May 3, 2021
The Department of Homeland Security announced on Monday that four families who were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border during the Trump administration will be reunited this week in the U.S.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said these reunions were “just the beginning” of a widespread effort to reunite families separated during the Trump administration.
Mayorkas said two of the families who will be reunited include two mothers, one Honduran and one Mexican, who were separated from their children in 2017, The Associated Press reports. The secretary described the children as 3 years old at the time and “teenagers who have had to live without their parent during their most formative years."
“The Family Reunification Task Force has been working day and night, across the federal government and with counsel for the families and our foreign partners, to address the prior administration’s cruel separation of children from their parents,” Mayorkas said in a statement. “Today is just the beginning. We are reuniting the first group of families, many more will follow, and we recognize the importance of providing these families with the stability and resources they need to heal.”
The task force is a joint effort by the State, Health and Human Services and Justice departments.
The parents will return to the U.S. on humanitarian parole, according to the AP, as longer-term forms of legal status are considered. The news service added that more than 5,000 children are believed to have been separated from their families during the Trump administration beginning in July 2017 under its "zero-tolerance" policy.
President Biden had criticized the policy as an act of cruelty multiple times and signed an executive order on his first day in office pledging to reunite separated families “to the greatest extent possible," the AP notes.
House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said in a statement on Monday that this week's reunifications show that "we are beginning to turn the page on this dark chapter in American history."
The development comes as the Biden administration faces a sharp increase in the number of migrants crossing the border from Mexico, including unaccompanied children.
--Morgan Chalfant contributed to this report, which was updated at 12:22 p.m.