The Biden administration has reunited more than 600 migrant children with their families after thousands of children were separated under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy at the US southern border.
The Department of Homeland Security said Thursday that nearly 1,000 children are yet to be reunited with their relatives, the second anniversary of the task force created to help with reunifications. Many of those children are Central American migrants who have been separated from their parents at the border and placed in detention centers. The effort was part of the Trump administration’s hardline approach to immigration, intended to dissuade millions of migrants from seeking asylum in the United States during his tenure in the White House.
The policy was criticized as cruel and inhumane by critics and it took years for government officials to reconnect the relatives and their young children.
“We understand that our critical work is not done,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to fulfilling President Biden’s promise to reunite to the fullest extent possible all children who have been separated from their families under the policy of ‘zero tolerance,’ and we continue to work diligently to embed the fundamental principle of family unity in our policies and operations”.
The agency added that the number of new families needing support continues to grow as they come forward and identify as separated.
President Joe Biden launched a task force shortly after taking office in 2021 to bring families together, but the effort has been difficult. Officials said the Trump administration’s information about separated families “was patchwork at best” and “pieced together from segmented documentation.”
Some 4,000 children who had been separated from their families were identified, and just under 3,000 of these were reunited (many of whom were reunited before Biden took office). Now, 148 children are in the process of being reunited and 183 families have been contacted to be reunited with their children.
“We have made significant progress toward reuniting families and providing them with needed services and support,” DHS said Thursday. “This critical work will continue until all of the separated families that can be found have had the opportunity to reunite.”