Biden Yet to Reunite Illegal Immigrants Separated During Trump's Term, Axios Says (Getty Images)
By Solange Reyner | Wednesday, 07 April 2021 04:40 PM
President Joe Biden reportedly has not reunited any of the illegal immigrants claiming to be family members who were separated at the border during former President Donald Trump's tenure despite Biden's repeated promises to do so — as recently as last month.
Biden in early February signed an executive order creating a task force to reunite the families, one of his signature campaign promises.
"Regarding the reunifications thus far, the task force has not directly reunified any families yet, and that's because we really are trying to build the processes and the information," a senior Department of Homeland Security official told Axios on Wednesday.
When the task force created in February was announced, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called the effort “not only an all-of-government, but an all-of-society effort to do what is right.”
Roughly 5,600 illegal immigrant children were reported to have been separated from family members during the time Trump was in office, and DHS officials are still sorting through the cases, moving “as quickly as we can do,” they told Axios. They said a lot of the information they inherited from the previous administration was “incomplete” and that they were taking their time to be meticulous with their review "because we are very concerned about not retraumatizing" immigrant children.
A record 2 million illegal immigrants or more are set to cross the border into the U.S. this fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30.
The last time apprehensions by U.S. Border Patrol surpassed 1 million was in fiscal year 2006, according to publicly available data from Customs and Border Protection.
Border facilities are also grossly overcrowded and the Biden administration is scrambling to open more shelters and transfer minors out of detention conditions that Biden last week called “unacceptable.”
“Is — that’s a serious question, right?” he asked a reporter who questioned whether kids sleeping on floors and packed into pods was acceptable. “Is it acceptable to me? Come on. That’s why we’re going to be moving a thousand of those kids out quickly."
Biden added: “That’s why I got Fort Bliss opened up. That’s why I’ve been working from the moment this started to happen to try to find additional access for children to be able to safely — not just children, but particularly children — to be able to safely be housed while we follow through on the rest of what’s happening.”
The unprecedented border surge has quickly grown into a crisis.
"There's no other way to claim it than a Biden border crisis," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said during a press conference at the border.
Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the American Civil Liberty Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, told Axios: “In the last week, we’ve made progress with the task force on reunifying the first group of separated families. The key will be whether that progress continues.”
The ACLU and the federal government in March announced the start of settlement negotiations in the longstanding lawsuit over the separation of illegal immigrants claiming to be family members while entering the U.S.