WASHINGTON (AP) — A Biden administration task force designed to reunite children separated from their families during President Trump’s presidency has reconnected nearly 700 children with their families, officials said Thursday.
President Joe Biden issued an executive order on his first day in office to reunite families that were split up under the Trump administration’s widely condemned practice of forcibly separating parents and children at the U.S.-Mexico border to discourage illegal immigration. Thursday marked the two-year anniversary of the task force.
According to figures released by the Department of Homeland Security, 3,881 children were separated from their families from 2017 to 2021. About 74% of those have been reunited with their families: 2,176 before the task force was created and 689 afterward.
But that still leaves nearly 1,000 children. Of those, 148 are in the reunification process. The department pledged to continue the work until all separated families that can be found have the opportunity to reunite with their children.
The Trump administration separated thousands of migrant parents from their children as it moved to criminally prosecute people for illegally crossing the southwestern border. Minors, who could not be held in criminal custody with their parents, were transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services. They were then typically sent to live with a sponsor, often a relative or someone else with a connection to the family.
Hundreds of families have sued the federal government.
Families can register for reunification services through a website and can get help with steps such as applying for humanitarian parole that would allow them to come to the U.S., as well as for behavioral health services to help them.
During a meeting Thursday with reporters, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas discussed efforts to address “the wounds” the separations had caused.
He describing meeting the mother of a teenager who had been separated from her mom when she was 13 and then reunited with her when she was 16. But Mayorkas said, the woman relayed how her teenage daughter “still could not understand how her mother would let her be separated. She didn’t understand the force behind the separation.”