The Biden administration says that it has reunified 500 migrant families who were separated during the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that aimed to stop illegal immigration into the U.S.
“This is a significant milestone that reflects the tireless dedication of the many public servants in the Department of Homeland Security and across the federal government, including those in the Departments of Health and Human Services, State, and Justice,” Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.
“It is a milestone that we could not have achieved without the partnership and critical work of several incredibly committed non-governmental organizations,” he said.
Mayorkas said that nearly 200 minors are in the process of being united with their parents.
The Trump administration implemented the “zero tolerance” policy in 2018 to counteract a surge in illegal immigration at the border, prosecuting all illegal entries. However, accompanying children who came as part of a family unit could not be housed in adult detention centers with their accompanying adults.
The Trump administration’s response was to separate the minors from their accompanying adults, placing them in Health and Human Services (HHS) care and allowing for detention and deportation of the adults. It was intended to dissuade migrant families from making the journey north in the first place.
After outrage over the separations, President Donald Trump ended the policy. When the Biden administration took over, it pledged to make sure that any illegal immigrant who had been separated from their child is brought into the U.S. and reunited. To ensure this happens, it launched the Family Reunification Task Force.
Those identified as eligible are brought in via a process called humanitarian parole. Travel is paid for, they can bring relatives and also live and work in the U.S. for three years on a renewable status.
In his statement, Mayorkas pledged that the Family Reunification Task Force’s work would continue.
“The Task Force, through its partners, also continues to identify and engage families who were separated to ensure they are aware of the reunification process and the support the Task Force has arranged,” he said. “This support includes critically needed behavioral health services to assist the families in addressing the trauma they have suffered.”
Meanwhile, a lawsuit is still ongoing as illegal immigrants who were separated sue the U.S. over the policy. A prior settlement, which would have dished out up to $450,000 per person, was abandoned after it was leaked and caused outraged from Republicans.