The Biden administration said Sunday that it will begin to reunite families that were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border during Donald Trump’s tenure. Last month, Axios noted that while President Biden had created a family-reunification task force during his first two weeks in office, his administration had yet to bring any families back together.
Now the New York Times reports that four previously deported parents from Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras will be permitted to reenter the United States this week in order to be reunited with their children. They will be in the country on humanitarian parole as other options are explored.
Sources also told the Times that 30 other migrants will likely be allowed into the country within one to two months to reunite with their children.
“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. Today is just the beginning,” said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in a statement. “We are reuniting the first group of families, many more will follow, and we recognize the importance of providing these families with the stability and resources they need to heal.”
The Trump administration officially implemented its family separation policy in 2018 with then Attorney General Jeff Sessions saying the government would have a “zero-tolerance policy” toward border crossings from undocumented immigrants. But data shows that migrant children were being separated from their parents as early as October 2017 as part of a DHS pilot program. Mayorkas said two of the mothers coming to the country this week were separated from their children during this time.
At least 5,500 children are believed to have been separated from their parents while the policy was in place. NBC News reported in February that more than 500 children have yet to be reunited with their parents.
Officials announced back in April that the reunification task force was currently reviewing 5,600 files to verify whether there were additional cases of separation that the Biden administration didn’t already know about. The files are from January to July 2017 and are being checked against information in other databases across the government.