A federal task force is launching a new program Monday to reunite migrant families who were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border under President Donald Trump’s policy on illegal crossings. The effort aims to find parents, many of whom are in remote Central American communities, and help them return to the United States, where they will get at least three years of legal residency and other assistance.
As reported by AP, Michelle Brané, Executive Director of the administration’s Family Reunification Task Force noted that despite the serious implications of family separation, the commission will make its best efforts to minimize the impact and reunify family groups affected by Trump’s zero-tolerance policy.
“We recognize that we can’t make these families completely whole again, but we want to do everything we can to put them on a path towards a better life,” said Brané.
Once parents who were separated from their children are located, the U.S. will work with the International Organization for Migration to help people get passports and other documents and return to the United States, where they will get work permits, residency for three years and some support services.
Lee Gelernt, Deputy Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) immigrant rights project, celebrated the Biden administration’s expanded efforts as “an important first step.” Nonetheless, he believes migrants should get more than three years of residency.
“Ultimately, we need the families to be given permanent legal status in light of what the United States government deliberately did to these families,” Gelernt said.
The ACLU is in talks with the government to provide some compensation to the families as part of settlement talks.
A better solution
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 reach that goal.
The task force has reunited about 50 families since starting its work in late February. However, there are still hundreds of parents, over 1,000 and 2,000, who were separated from their children and have not been located. An additional difficulty is the lack of accurate records from the Trump administration. This makes it difficult to establish for certain, Brané said.
However, despite the obstacles, the commission is committed to reuniting these families.
The new program includes a web portal that will allow parents to contact the U.S. government to begin the process of reunification. The site and an outreach campaign to promote it will be in English, Spanish, Portuguese and several indigenous languages of Central America.