DHS under Mayorkas makes slow progress in finding migrant parents of over 400 children
It’s no help that the Trump admin. withheld vital data to reunite families. There are countless documents that the incoming administration is only just beginning to sort through.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has announced that the Biden administration will reunify a small group of parents with their children this week. These select parents will be allowed to enter the U.S. legally to be reunited with their children, who have been living in the U.S. for varying periods of forced separation.
According to Mayorkas, among the group of parents are two mothers from Mexico and Honduras who haven’t seen their children in over two years.
“They are mothers who fled extremely dangerous situations in their home countries, who remained in dangerous environments in Mexico, holding out hope to reunite with their children,” Mayorkas wrote on Twitter following the announcement.
The Family Reunification Task Force has been working day and night to address the prior administration’s cruel separation of children from their parents. I’m proud to announce we will begin to reunite the first of those families. https://t.co/zNugQ1aFWf pic.twitter.com/7Z6wMie3wi
— Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas (@SecMayorkas) May 3, 2021
This will be the first such reunification “ceremony” to happen under Mayorkas’ DHS and the Biden administration. In February, the president put Mayorkas in charge of the task force to locate and reunite separated migrant families. It remains in the early stages of collecting and reviewing countless documents related to family separations that occurred under former President Trump's administration, reports CBS.
“We are pleased that the process of reunifications is beginning this week and that these four mothers will be hugging their children after so many years,” Mayorkas continued to write, saying the task force has made “critical progress in just a few months.”
It’s progressing, but it’s slow.
Days into his administration, Biden signed an executive order establishing the Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families to identify parents and children separated by the Trump administration.
As of April 7, sixty-one parents had been found and contacted, but advocates and DHS administrators said they had yet to find or locate the parents of 445 children, according to a federal court filing. The parents of 302 had been deported, while the parents of over 100 are somewhere in the United States.
While there has been progress in making contact with dozens of parents, the four families announced this week will be the first to be unified under the Biden administration.
It’s no help that the previous administration withheld data that would have helped to reunite families. There are countless documents that the incoming administration is only just beginning to sort through.
In December, a report found that the prior administration withheld the addresses and phone numbers of separated families, thereby making it harder to reunite families because of the omission.
Legal advocates at the time said that after many months of pleas to obtain more information that could help find migrant families, the Trump administration delivered the documents just under 50 days before the end of his presidency.
Flash-forward to now, the unification of four families out of hundreds is not a huge accomplishment, indicating a long road ahead.
These children, whose parents brought them across the border have been subjected to damaging psychological effects, and their parents have been forced to navigate the prolonged loss of a child — either from thousands of miles away in their countries of origin or within detention centers.
The number of unaccompanied minors held by Border Patrol has fallen by 88% since March, when U.S. migrant holding facilities faced overcrowding, and the Biden administration faced heightened criticism for its control of the situation.
Now, Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Border Patrol reports it was holding 677 unaccompanied children, compared to the record 5,767 CBP had in its custody on March 28.
That month, Mayorkas tasked FEMA with assisting in setting up shelters along with DHS employees. So far, the new shelters have helped to speed up the process for processing unaccompanied minors, resulting in lower numbers at facilities.
DHS recently released new photos of a temporary processing facility in Donna, Texas and compared them to the same facilities in March, which were then overcrowded. While they depict one facility, the pictures paint a stark contrast.