The Biden administration’s family reunification task force is expanding its ongoing effort to reunite families cruelly separated at the southern border by the previous administration, including the creation of a web portal for deported parents to self-identify and a new agreement with the United Nations-affiliated International Organization for Migration, the Associated Press (AP) reports.
Since January, the administration has reunited roughly 50 families with court documents last month stating the deported parents of 337 children have still not been found. But the task force said in June that due to the previous administration’s sloppy record-keeping, over 2,000 children may still be separated. “It is a huge challenge that we are absolutely committed to following through to meet and to do whatever we can to reunify these families,” task force leader Michelle Brané tells the AP.
The AP reports that under expanded reunification efforts, the Biden administration and International Organization for Migration will work together to help located deported parents secure necessary documentation to travel within their own country and to the U.S. The report said that the administration has also launched a multilingual web portal, Together.gov, allowing deported parents to contact the U.S. The campaign to promote the website will also be multilingual, including in several indigenous languages.
“If you are a parent, legal guardian, or child who was separated by the U.S. government at the U.S.-Mexico border between January 20, 2017, and January 20, 2021, you may qualify to begin the reunification process and receive support services. Parents and children who were previously reunited also qualify for these support services,” reads English-language text from the site.
“The International Organization for Migration will help all qualified families with this process,” the text continued. “The International Organization for Migration is a trusted partner of the U.S. government who helps ensure humane migration.”
Deported parents have been returned to the U.S. by the Biden administration under humanitarian parole, which allows them to live here for a period of three years. Reuniting families is just one part of righting this wrong. The next part must be ensuring the reunifications are permanent, advocates said. “Ultimately, we need the families to be given permanent legal status in light of what the United States government deliberately did to these families,” American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorney Lee Gelernt told the AP.
“The ACLU is in talks with the government to provide some compensation to the families as part of settlement talks,” the report continued.
Several reunited families recently held a virtual meeting with Department of Homeland Security Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas. One parent, Honduran asylum-seeker Keldy Mabel Gonzales Brebe, was separated from her children so long that one was legally an adult by the time they were reunited in May 2021. “We don’t want to be separated from our kids again after we fought for them so hard,” the AP reported she said in asking for permanent protection. “We suffered too much.” Notably, Brané said that Mayorkas apologized to the families, something the prior administration, which actually carried out these abuses, never did.
“The Secretary was clear in recognizing our responsibility,” she said in that August report. “He apologized to the families for what the government did and is dedicated to supporting them as they move forward with their lives, recognizing that the harm cannot be undone and that some of the emotional scars will stay with them. He encouraged them to move forward and committed to helping them to do so.”
“Brané said the administration recognizes that ‘we need to find a better, longer-term solution to provide families with stability,’ but that it will take more time, and perhaps action from Congress, to achieve that goal,” the AP said in its new report. While Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro have already put forward legislation that would do just that, the Family Belong Together Act has disappointingly stalled in Congress.
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