The administration has developed a series of initiatives designed to make the immigration system fairer and more efficient
President Joe Biden on Tuesday will announce the creation of a working group on reuniting families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border during Donald Trump’s presidency.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that the task force will be headed by Alejandro Mayorcas, Biden’s nominee for Homeland Security Secretary but not yet confirmed by the Senate.
One of Trump’s most controversial initiatives to curb illegal immigration has been the policy of separating migrants from their children while criminal cases for illegal entry or background checks are pending. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), at least 5,500 migrant minors have been separated from their parents.
The family separations occurred mostly in 2017 and 2018 when all those who entered the country illegally were prosecuted. The so-called “zero-tolerance” policy was officially announced in April 2018, and in June, after an outcry from the world, Trump rolled back the initiative.
But immigration attorneys and migrant rights advocates say the family separation began before the policy was officially announced and continued after Trump ordered it to end.
U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, who handled the ACLU lawsuit in the Southern District of California, ordered the Trump administration to reunite about 4,000 children with their families. But hundreds of parents who were deported without their children were not allowed to return to the United States.
In addition, according to the ACLU, Sabraw’s executive order left out about 1,500 children.
Almost all of the children covered by the order were eventually reunited with their parents or turned over to guardians with parental consent. However, the parents of 611 children still have not been found. According to the ACLU, the parents of about 400 of the children have been deported, and the rest may reside in the United States.
The ACLU is conducting a search in cooperation with other nonprofit organizations. A toll-free hotline has been set up for parents looking for their children. There are also searches in countries of origin, such as Guatemala and Honduras. But the coronavirus pandemic and security concerns have limited these investigations.
Biden promises to create a task force to reunite the remaining separated families. According to Psaki, First Lady Jill Biden is also involved in this project. Migrant advocates are calling for support and psychological help for separated families, to give deported parents the right to return to the United States, and to provide a legal way for those who have suffered violence to remain in the country.
The task force will report regularly to President Biden and plans to work with various government agencies, representatives of separated families, and “partners across the hemisphere to find parents and children separated by the Trump administration,” according to a press release issued Monday. Officials said the task force will predominantly, but not exclusively, focus on families separated under the “zero tolerance” policy.
According to a White House statement, the Biden administration also plans to develop a new strategy to address illegal migration across the southern border and create a humane asylum system. This includes tackling the root causes of illegal immigration, working with international partners, and providing legal avenues for refugees and asylum seekers.
In addition, the administration aims to restore trust in the U.S. immigration system by making it fairer and more efficient. It also plans to take steps to integrate immigrants, including by reviving the New Americans Task Force.