This past Monday, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas and the Family Reunification Task Force announced that, the Biden Administration will begin to reunite families who were unjustly separated at the United States-Mexico border under the prior administration.
“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,” said Secretary Mayorkas, who serves as the Chair of the Task Force. “Today is just the beginning. 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.”
In February, President Biden signed an Executive Order establishing the Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families (Task Force) to identify parents and children separated by the prior administration. The order directed the Task Force to implement comprehensive strategies that will bring families back together and ensure the families are provided support.
The Task Force has been working tirelessly to establish a complete database of separated families, correct inaccuracies in the files they were provided, and build the processes to find every family and give them the opportunity to reunite and heal. The Task Force is in the process of reviewing additional cases for reunification in the coming months. The Task Force’s initial report is due on June 2, 2021, and will provide a full update on the Task Force’s progress.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) leads the President’s Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families and is joined by the Department of State, Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Justice. Michelle Brané serves as the Task Force’s Executive Director. While the Task Force is leveraging existing authorities, the reunification effort is novel work that has required significant interagency coordination:
- DHS has established a process for accepting parole requests and stands ready to process and receive families as they request to enter the U.S.
- The Department of Health and Human Services is working on facilitating services to support harmed families.
- The Department of State has developed a streamlined system for processing in-country requests for travel documents to enter the U.S.
- The Department of Justice supports the Task Force in related settlement negotiation efforts.
While coordinating all these efforts, the Task Force is also exploring options for long term legal stability for reunified families and identifying and recommending policies to avoid repeating these unnecessary and cruel separations in the future. The Task Force has made critical progress in a short period of time, resulting in reunifications starting this week and many more in the weeks ahead.