President Joe Biden’s administration is now backing giving amnesty to immigrants separated from family members at the U.S.–Mexico border during the Trump administration, shifting away from plans to pay money to them.
Negotiations on the payments between the government and groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, spurred by a hope to settle lawsuits against the government, fell apart in December 2021. At the time, the Department of Justice said “we remain committed to engaging with the plaintiffs and to bringing justice to the victims of this abhorrent policy.”
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told NBC in a recent interview that the administration now wants all the separated illegal immigrants to be granted permanent legal status, or amnesty.
“We are advocating to Congress that they provide these individuals with legal status—that requires a statutory change,” Mayorkas, a Biden appointee, said. “The White House is 100 percent supportive of it, as am I, and we continue to advocate vigorously for it.”
Asked about the comments, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington, “We stand by Secretary Mayorkas.”
Nearly 4,000 children were separated from their parents by U.S. agents at the border between July 1, 2017, and Jan. 20, 2021, according to the most recent progress report (pdf) from the Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families. The task force, which was formed under the direction of Biden, published the report on Nov. 29, 2021.
Thousands of relatives of the children could be granted amnesty if the Biden administration is successful in convincing Congress to push through a bill. Most are illegal immigrants.
Democrats in Congress in April 2021 introduced legislation that would grant parole to parents and children who were separated and establish a process to allow the aliens to become lawful permanent residents.
“As the Biden Administration works to reunite the remaining separated children with their families, our legislation will ensure that formerly separated children and their families are able to build the new lives in America that they endured so much horror to achieve,” Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), one of the sponsors, said in a statement at the time.
The bill has not received votes in either chamber.
The House of Representatives and Senate are both controlled by Democrats with slim majorities.
The administration’s new push drew criticism from some, including Matthew Tragesser, spokesperson for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that seeks to end illegal immigration and reduce legal immigration.
Tragesser told The Epoch Times in an email that the amnesty proposal “is misguided, appeases a small, fringe activist wing, and does nothing to address the pull factors that encourage family units to trek to the U.S.-Mexico border and jeopardize their lives.
Tragesser said that most of the families were separated because they crossed into the country illegally.
“Joe Biden continues to reward lawbreakers who illegally cross our southern borders with hotel rooms, flights, bus tickets, payouts and now citizenship,” Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement. “His actions are disgraceful and only serve to encourage and foment more mass illegal immigration month after month. Joe Biden has repeatedly violated his oath of office and must be impeached.”