The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Monday announced the creation of a “Family Reunification Task Force” with plans to reunite hundreds of migrant children with their parents, separated under former president Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy.
“We are dedicating our resources throughout [DHS] and the federal government, and bringing our full weight to bear, to reunite children who were cruelly separated from their parents,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, who serves as the task force’s chair. Mayorkas emphasized that the Biden administration not only has a “moral imperative” to rejoin families, but that it must also provide families with “the relief, resources, and services they need to heal.”
Additionally, DHS outlined the task force’s top 10 principles to “heal the families, to the fullest extent of the law.” The guidelines lay stress upon balancing “the need for swift action with the need for comprehensive and stable support.” The principles define such support “very broadly,” and include transportation, healthcare (including trauma and mental health services), legal services, and career and educational services.
The task force (as permitted by law) will further “identify opportunities for families to pursue legal immigration status that best ensures their safety and stability”—either in the US or their country of origin. Finally, the task force will “identify and implement long-term reform efforts to ensure that family separations not based on the best interests of [children] are not permitted to occur again.”
Mayorkas also announced that Michelle Brané will serve as the task force’s executive director. Most recently, Brané served as the senior director of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission.
In a press release, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) applauded the announcement. “Of course, the devil is in the details and Secretary Mayorkas has to shed all the caveats and qualifications around his announcement and follow through with everything that’s necessary to right the wrong,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) officially rescinded Trump’s controversial immigration policy in January. The decision followed a report asserting that DOJ failed to effectively manage the policy’s impact on separated children.