Four separated immigrant families on the U.S.-Mexico border under the Trump administration will reunite this week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Monday. This marks the first reunifications under President Joe Biden.

The effort stems from the family reunification task force established by one of Biden’s decrees. The task force, located at DHS, involves federal agencies to identify and reunite families who had been separated at the US-Mexico border under then-President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy.

«The first families to meet again this week are mothers, they are sons, they are daughters, they are children who were 3 years old at the time of separation. They are teenagers who have had to live without their parents during their most formative years, ”National Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told reporters on Sunday.

Pandemic hits families separated by ICE raidsWhile Mayorkas declined to provide specific details about the families to protect their privacy, he described two cases: a mother from Honduras who was separated from her children at the end of 2017 and another mother from Mexico who was separated from her son at the end of 2017. Both mothers will be reuniting with their children in the next two days.

Families will receive humanitarian parole to enter the United States and be reunited with their children who are in the country, according to Michelle Brané, executive director of the family reunification task force.

“The way these families are being returned is day and night since they were found,” said Ann Garcia, an attorney who has been working to help separated families with legal and social needs. “They are literally rolling out the red carpet for these families as it should be for them and for all the other migrants who come here.”

The task force has been engaging with groups that are in contact with families and carefully planning their return, taking into account past trauma, Garcia said, noting that some parents are nervous about meeting again with Customs and Protection. US border since their last encounter with agents, which resulted in their children being taken from them.

The families are among thousands who were separated under the Trump administration’s controversial “zero tolerance” policy, which resulted in the separation of at least 2,800 children from their parents, according to government data. Officials later found that more than 1,000 children had been separated from their families before Trump’s policy took effect in 2018.

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Family reunification

Brané said the task force has identified more than 1,000 families who remain separated, or are believed to still be separated.

Lawyers in an ongoing family separation case, meanwhile, are still trying to reach the parents of 445 migrant children separated from their families on the U.S.-Mexico border between 2017 and 2018.

“We are excited that these mothers will finally see their children after years, but the (American Civil Liberties Union) is certainly not ready to celebrate just yet because of the thousands who still need to be reunited and the more than 5,500 children left. traumatized and in need of help, ”said ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt, lead attorney in the ongoing family separation case.

“We are pushing for permanent legal status, compensation and social services. It is the least that these families deserve given that our government deliberately abused them, “he added.

Mayorkas touted the work of the task force, which has been examining thousands of records and correcting problems in existing files.

As part of the effort, DHS is establishing a process for accepting parole applications, the Department of Health and Human Services is working to facilitate services to support families, and the Department of State is developing a streamlined system for processing document requests. traveling within the country. The Department of Justice also participates in related settlement negotiation efforts.

“Since the decree was signed, the task force has been working to identify parents and children separated by the previous administration, establish a system to reunite them safely, and ensure that they are provided with support after the traumatic experience that they suffered, ”Mayorkas said.

Immigrant advocates, who for years struggled to find and connect families, have urged the Biden administration to focus on rectifying the damage of the previous administration.

Advocacy groups have also called for accountability and transparency to fully take into account the “zero tolerance” policy and its ramifications, as well as to take into account the views of parents who were separated from their children in an attempt to reestablish trust with the families harmed by the past administration.

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