The Biden administration announced Monday that it would be reuniting four immigrant families separated during the Trump administration’s short experimentation with a “zero tolerance” immigration policy, shifting focus from a child migrant crisis on the United States’ southern border that the White House is still struggling to control.
“The Biden administration will reunite four migrant families separated during the Trump administration this week, while its reunification task force estimates that over 1,000 families remain separated,” according to ABC News. “The four families include at least one child who was separated from his or her parent at age 3 and at least two women who were separated from their children in late 2017 — part of a pilot program for former President Donald Trump’s 2018 ‘zero tolerance’ policy.”
The children were reportedly released into the United States but the parents were deported back to their home countries of Honduras and Mexico, per the network.
But while working to address what the White House considers top priority immigration issues raised during the Trump administration, the Biden administration appears to be trying to shift focus away from an ongoing child migrant crisis at the southern border.
In March, nearly 20,000 migrant children ended up in United States Customs and Border Patrol custody after jumping the border as unaccompanied minors, per CBS News, and while an official count has yet to be released for the month of April, the numbers are expected to be the same. In fact, experts predict that the ongoing immigration “surge” could continue throughout the summer.
The New York Times reported over the weekend that the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services have only recently begun to see success in their efforts to move and house the thousands of children who are still in DHS and HHS custody.
“The government on Friday reported a more than 80 percent drop over the past month in the number of migrant children in Border Patrol custody, down to 790 on Thursday,” the Times reported. “A month ago, 5,767 migrant children were in Border Patrol custody.”
“And the length of time children are staying in border cells has decreased as well, to an average of 28 hours in recent days from 133 hours a month ago,” the outlet continued. “Federal law mandates that migrant children be transferred out of Border Patrol custody within 72 hours.”
Those children, though, are still in United States custody, just transferred to HHS holding facilities across the southwest, “including in convention centers in Dallas and San Diego, an expo center in San Antonio, and a military site and a former camp for oil workers in Texas.”
“As of Thursday, more than 22,500 children were in the custody of the Health and Human Services Department, compared with the 11,886 a month ago,” the Times noted. “Efforts to unite them with family members in the country have been seeing more success,” the outlet continued, but the number of children being discharged from US custody is in the hundreds, not the thousands.
There is a separate issue with family reunification, though: immigration activists say the Biden administration is not responsible for reunifying the families but is taking all the credit.
“Despite what Secretary Mayorkas would have the public believe, DHS has done nothing to facilitate the return and reunification of these parents this week, other than to agree to allow them in. The only reason these mothers will be standing at the port of entry is because Al Otro Lado negotiated their travel visas with the Mexican government, paid for their airline tickets, and arranged for reunification,” Carol Anne Donohoe, managing attorney of Al Otro Lado’s Family Reunification Project, told ABC News.
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