The government of the president, Joe Biden, will begin from Tuesday the reunification process of some of the immigrant families separated by the administration of his predecessor, Donald Trump (2017-2021).
As a first step, authorities will allow entry so they can see their children again to four women from Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras, who were once separated from them at the border and deported to their countries of origin.
These women are expected to enter the U.S. through Texas and California.
In an interview with CBS News, the Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS), Alejandro Mayorkas, emphasized: “the extraordinary commitment” of the Biden Administration to reunite these families.
Later, in a statement, he noted that this “is just the beginning.”
“We will reunite the first group of families, many more will follow, and we recognize the importance of providing these families with the resources and stability they need,” Mayorkas said.
Currently, there are more than 1,000 immigrant families separated, according to DHS data, as a result of the “zero tolerance” policy implemented by the Trump Executive between April and June 2018 until a federal judge ordered its cancellation and demanded that separated individuals be reunited.
Most families have been reunited in recent years, although about 1,000 still remain, mainly because in these cases the adults, mostly from Central America, were deported.
There are family separations dating back to late 2017, long before that Trump policy officially began. Some of the minors left in U.S. custody were so young when they were taken away from their parents that they barely remember their relatives.
The first four families will be reunited through a task force created by Biden shortly after he arrived at the White House on Jan. 20.
Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Mayorkas had stated that his team was “dedicated” to finding each family to give them a chance to get back together.
“There are children who were three years old at the time of separation. There are teenagers who had to live without their parents during their most formative years, there are mothers who fled extremely dangerous situations in their home countries, who have remained in dangerous environments in Mexico, hoping to be reunited with their children,” the immigration official detailed.
Pro-immigrant groups estimate that the relatives of at least 445 minors have not yet been located.
Among those to be reunited this week is a mother separated from her children at the border at the end of 2017 after fleeing Honduras. There is another case of a Mexican woman who was taken away from her offspring also in late 2017.
According to sources cited by The New York Times, another 30 migrants are expected to enter the country on humanitarian permits between the next 30 to 60 days.
The executive director of the White House Task Force on Family Reunification, Michelle Brané, detailed in a videoconference that parents will be granted temporary authorization to enter the U.S. through a mechanism called a “humanitarian permit.”
Brané confirmed that there are more than 1,000 families and explained that they do not have an exact number because of the Trump Administration that did not make a complete registration.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has acted as an advocate for these immigrants, estimates that with Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy some 2,800 migrant families, with some 5,500 minors, were separated.
At that time, the government classified the children as unaccompanied minors, and distributed them in different parts of the country, in shelters under government custody.
Following the announcement, ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said his organization is pushing for “permanent status” to be granted to these families, along with compensation and social services. During the election campaign, Biden promised to reunite separated families and called the Trump Administration’s policy “criminal.”
Precisely immigration management has choked Biden during his first months in office due to the record numbers of undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers who have arrived at the border, many of them minors.
For a year now, the number of undocumented immigrants arriving at the border from Mexico and being apprehended by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has been growing, jumping from 101,028 in February to 172,131 in March.
In February, CBP arrested 9,881 minors who arrived without a parent or legal guardian, while the number rose to 18,890 in March. Since the end of last month, the number of minors in CBP custody has dropped 88% to 677 this weekend, down from 5,767 on March 28.
The minors were spending an average of 130 hours in March in CBP facilities, which are not prepared for this type of tenant, a time longer than the three days the agency is required by law to turn them over to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
According to Mayorkas, children and adolescents currently spend an average of 20 hours in the hands of CBP.