For the first time since taking office, the Biden administration will allow the adult members of four families deported by the Trump administration to reunite with their children in the United States. The families, who hail from Mexico and Honduras, are among the 5,500 migrant families separated in 2017 and 2018.
“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,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the chair of the task force, said in a statement. He also promised that “many more [families] will follow” these four.
“DHS has done nothing to facilitate the return and reunification of these parents this week, other than to agree to allow them in. The only reason these mothers will be standing at the port of entry is because Al Otro Lado negotiated their travel visas with the Mexican government, paid for their airline tickets and arranged for reunification,” Carol Anne Donohoe, managing attorney of Al Otro Lado’s Family Reunification Project, told NBC News.
“We represent over 30 other parents who, like these mothers, were ready for return on Day 1 of the Biden presidency. DHS would have you believe that this is an incredibly complex task, yet AOL, with our limited resources, has already reunified nearly 40 deported parents with their children. There is no reason, other than lack of political will, for DHS to make these families undergo even one more day of separation and torture,” Donohoe said.
And apart from dragging its feet on reunification, the Biden administration did not offer concrete details on what would happen to the families when they are reunified. The adults are being let into the country under the terms of humanitarian parole, a status that explicitly does not afford them a permanent home in the United States.
The executive director of the task force would only say that it is “looking into longer-term status” for the parents so that they can remain in the United States.
And yet, these four families are the lucky ones. The task force estimates that more than 1,000 migrant families separated under the Trump administration remain that way more than three months into Biden’s term.