03 May 2021
The United States Department of Homeland Security said Monday it is working to reunite children who were separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years.
Alejandro Mayorkas is the head of the Department of Homeland Security. He said his agency still has a lot of work to do. However, Mayorkas said: "We continue to work tirelessly to reunite many more children with their parents in the weeks and months ahead."
The department announced that the families will be reconnected this week in what Mayorkas called "the beginning" of the effort.
Two mothers, one from Honduras and one from Mexico are expected to be reunited with their children this week. Some of the children were as young as three years old when they were separated. The department did not give details about the other families.
In 2017, the administration of President Donald Trump put in place a policy that brought criminal charges against people crossing the border illegally. The policy meant that adults were separated from minors who were with them.
Since then, some children have been permitted to remain in the U.S. while their parents were sent home. Some of them were sent to live with family members in the U.S. Others stayed in shelters run by the U.S government.
In July 2017, the number of children separated from their parents was over 5,000. That number has come down.
The Trump administration ended its policy in 2018, but over the last three years it has been difficult to connect parents with their children.
The Biden administration has been under pressure from rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to bring the families back together as soon as possible. The ACLU brought legal action against the Trump administration at the time to stop the separations.
The reunifications expected this week are a result of the ACLU's legal action. In a legal compromise, the ACLU and the U.S. government worked to decide how many families needed to be reunited.
Michelle Brane is the director of the Biden administration's Family Reunification Task Force. She said the parents are permitted to come to the U.S. to join their children on temporary humanitarian grounds. However, the U.S. is still working to decide whether they will be permitted to stay for a longer period of time.
Brane said she thinks about 1,000 families are still separated.
In an executive order signed during his first day in office, Biden said he would work to reunite families "to the greatest extent possible."
While the news of the children getting back together with their families is positive, the U.S. is still struggling to deal with the flow of migrants.
Children are still coming to the U.S. alone. About 700 children are currently in Border Patrol custody, but that is down from over 5,700 in late March. Once they are processed by Border Patrol officials, they are sent to centers managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The U.S. government added 14 new housing centers for migrants in the first part of 2021.
Last week, HHS said it is caring for over 22,000 children. Immigration officers are working to place the children with people who can take care of them.
I'm Dan Friedell.
Elliot Spagat wrote this story for The Associated Press. Dan Friedell adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.
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Words in This Story
humanitarian –adj. used to describe help offered to other people
custody –n. the act of protecting or taking care of something
process –v. to deal with (something, such as an official document or request) by using a particular method or system