998 Children Who Entered US as Illegal Aliens ‘Remain to Be Reunited’ With Their Families: DHS

998 Children Who Entered US as Illegal Aliens ‘Remain to Be Reunited’ With Their Families: DHS
A group of illegal aliens walk up the road after crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico. Further up the road, they will board a bus bound for the Border Patrol processing facility in McAllen, Texas, on April 18, 2019. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)
Mimi Nguyen Ly

A task force established under the Biden administration two years ago has reunited over 600 children with their families who had tried to enter the United States illegally when a short-lived but strict border policy was in effect under the Trump administration.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Thursday that 998 children “remain to be reunited.”

The family separations took place under the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy that was in effect from April–June 2018. It required all adults who cross the border into the United States illegally to be prosecuted. This meant that minors, who could not be held in criminal custody with their parents, were separated from their parents and were eventually typically sent to live with a sponsor, which is often a relative or another person linked to the family.
Before the zero-tolerance policy, Border Patrol agents had found that illegal immigrants were renting children south of the border and pretending they were family in efforts to exploit legal loopholes to get a quick release from custody into the interior of the United States.
Due to widespread backlash against families getting separated under the zero-tolerance policy, then-President Donald Trump halted family separations at the border less than three months after it was implemented.
The Trump administration soon began reuniting the separated families, with people both criticizing and praising the administration for its efforts. Hundreds of families have sued the federal government.
The Department of Health and Human Services under the Trump administration, tasked with reuniting families, subsequently identified almost 13 percent of the initial batch of parents as serious criminals, or that they had lied about being the actual parents.

After President Joe Biden took office, his administration in February 2021 established the Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families to reunite the families that remained separated.

In a statement on Thursday, the DHS said the task force has “relentlessly pursued its mission of finding separated families and providing them the opportunity for reunification.”

“By combing U.S. government records and coordinating with NGO partners to identify the separated children and their parents, the Task Force has to date identified 3,924 children who were separated between January 20, 2017 and January 20, 2021,” the DHS announced.

“As of February 1, 2023, 2,926 separated children have been reunified, either before the establishment of the Task Force or through the leadership of the Task Force.”

DHS figures indicate that 689 have been reunited with their families since the task force was created.

“Of the 998 children who remain to be reunited, as of February 1, 2023, 148 children are in the process of reunification and 183 families have been informed of the opportunity to reunify by a contracted NGO.”

“The number of new families identified continues to increase, as families come forward and identify themselves as separated under the previous administration’s zero-tolerance policy.”

Reunification Services

The task force has also informed the families about how to access reunification services, which means they can “receive support in applying for humanitarian parole, arranging travel to the United States, and once here, accessing behavioral health services from a trusted provider,” the DHS stated.

Families can register for such services through the websites Together.gov or Juntos.gov, upon which they are provided with support services via the International Organization for Migration (IOM), a contract partner of the federal government.

The task force has, to date, reached 1,999 families through the registration process on Together.gov/Juntos.gov, and referred the eligible families to the IOM to complete the humanitarian parole request process.

It has also provided 735 families with behavioral health case management services and provided 385 families with behavioral health assessments and treatment, according to the DHS.

The work to reunite families “will continue until all separated families that can be found have been provided the opportunity to reunify,” the DHS said.

“The Task Force is working closely with colleagues across DHS and other federal agencies to develop policies to prioritize family unity, protect against future family separations, and reunify any remaining separated families.”

Charlotte Cuthbertson contributed to this report.
Mimi Nguyen Ly covers U.S. and world news.
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