DHS Sec. Mayorkas: Permanent US Status Possible for Reunited Families (NBC/"NBC News")
By Sandy Fitzgerald | Friday, 07 May 2021 10:10 AM
The Biden administration is working to reunite entire families of immigrant children who were separated from their parents during the Trump administration, meaning that the children's siblings could also be eligible for permanent legal status in the United States, according to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and the director of the reunification task force.
"We are very much focused on providing stability to the reunited families," Mayorkas said in an interview with NBC News.
He added that he couldn't guarantee permanent legal status to such families, but said "we're going to do everything we can to make it work out."
Task force director Michelle Brane confirmed her group is working for a process where "immediate family members can also apply.
"That includes siblings, another, you know, the partner or spouse, other parents if they're in the picture," she said. "We arranged for that. Once those applications are approved, we will facilitate travel arrangements."
The Biden administration this week reunited four families that were separated from each other in 2017 and 2018, but estimates that more than 1,000 children have not yet been reunited.
Meanwhile, Mayorkas said that he is not, "at this moment in time" launching an investigation of Trump administration officials in connection with the family separation policy.
"I'm not looking at accountability at this moment in time, and so I think that question is before its time," he said.
Brane said the task force has identified parents and children who have been separated, but that the divisions were not known to the government because of records that had been poorly kept.
Mayorkas on Thursday also defended the administration's decision to use Title 42 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to block families and single adults from entering the United States because of concerns over COVID-19, as well as the choice to allow unaccompanied children to enter the United States, which has forced some parents to separate from their children.
The current situation is "absolutely" different from the Trump family separation policy, said Mayorkas, adding that DHS is "very focused" on the position some parents have found themselves in and doing what it can to address it.
"That is so markedly different than a policy that rips a child … out of the hands of a mother or father for the express purpose of deterring others from seeking asylum in the United States," he said. "Those are two very different worlds."
Meanwhile, Mayorkas said he hasn't thought about whether people who have suffered from the effects of climate change should be made eligible for asylum.
He also said that the real crisis with immigration isn't the surge, but with the "humanitarian crisis" in the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador that makes "parents feel compelled to send their children in the hands of smugglers alone to the Mexico-U.S. border."