More than 2,100 children separated at US-Mexico border by Trump may not have been reunited with families

Only 2 per cent of families apprehended at border were together when they were deported to countries they fled, DHS reports

Alex Woodward
New York
Tuesday 08 June 2021 21:19 BST
Kamala Harris tells Guatemalan migrants 'Do not come' to US-Mexico border
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More than 2,100 children separated at the US-Mexico border under Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy that separated thousands of asylum-seeking migrant families “may remain separated from their parents”, according to a report from the US Department of Homeland Security.

The first progress report from a Family Reunification Task Force follows a study ordered in an executive action by President Joe Biden and made public on Tuesday.

The task force discovered that 1,786 children were reunified with their families in the US and in their home countries, most of them prior to the creation of the task force within the first days of President Biden’s administration.

There are an estimated 2,127 children who may remain separated from their parents, the report found.

Border officials separated at least 3,913 migrant children from their families in 2017 through the end of the Trump administration.

The task force facilitated reunification for just seven families separated during that time. DHS officials revealed that an additional 29 families will be reunited in the coming weeks.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services has approved 37 parole requests to allow the family members of separated children to enter the US to reunite on American soil, which the previous administration had rejected.

The release of the report arrives as Vice President Kamala Harris travels to Central America to meet with northern triangle leadership to address the “root causes” of migration through Mexico into the US at its southern border.

More than 5,500 families were separated during the Trump administration’s four-year term as part of a policy that sought immediate criminal prosecutions for “illegal entry” into the US, sparking worldwide condemnation.

But of the more than 1,600 parents and 400 children deported by the administration, they were together in only 2 per cent of those cases, the report found.

Five children who have not been reunited with their parents remain in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services because officials cannot find them or family members in the US, according to the report.

Immigrant advocates have criticised the administration’s deliberately slow pace to find families, including hundreds of people who were sent back to countries they fled in the first place.

Asked twice on Tuesday whether the administration knows where the more than 2,100 children who may not have been reunited are now, White House press secretary Jen Psaki did not answer directly but pointed to DHS for clarity on its terminology.

She also echoed DHS comments and concerns that the current administration inherited a “lack of data” around reunited families and missing children from the Trump administration.

Human rights groups and civil rights organisations have urged Mr Biden to not just rescind the widely condemned anti-immigration agenda under his predecessor but also recognise the harm caused by the government, give impacted families protected legal status, and end the government’s adversarial and carceral approach to immigration.

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