(NEW YORK) — More than 500 children have been reunited by the Biden administration’s task force to find families separated as a result of the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy at the border, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Friday.
“This is a significant milestone that reflects the tireless dedication of the many public servants in the Department of Homeland Security and across the federal government, including those in the Departments of Health and Human Services, State, and Justice,” Mayorkas said in a statement. “It is a milestone that we could not have achieved without the partnership and critical work of several incredibly committed non-governmental organizations.”
Nearly 200 other children who have yet to be reunited and are in the process, Mayorkas said.
The administration had previously identified 3,855 total children who would qualify for government-assisted reunification, according to the last formal progress report from the task force in July. Since then, the administration has now reached out to about 150 families who are eligible but have not responded. Prior to the establishment of the task force, some 2,260 known children were reunified.
The work is done in connection with international non-governmental organizations including the International Organization for Migration and the UN Refugee Agency. Human rights workers have fanned out across Central America, traveling over 62,000 miles to find separated parents.
“We will continue to work tirelessly to deliver on President Biden’s commitment to reunite children separated from their families at the United States-Mexico border,” Mayorkas said Friday.
Those admitted for reunification receive humanitarian parole for three years to live and work in the U.S. The status is similar to those who have fled Afghanistan and Ukraine over the past year. The administration continues to operate two websites — Together.gov and Juntos.gov — where families can register to check their eligibility. So far, the government has registered about 1,700. Once found eligible, families then submit documentation to receive parole, allowing them to enter the U.S.
The government is also providing families access to mental health services as part of the reunification effort.
Last month, the Justice Department asked a federal judge to approve a new round of psychological evaluations for those separated and a part of an ongoing lawsuit in Arizona federal court. Five mothers who were separated from their kids are seeking compensation for mental health damages from the U.S. government.
Lee Gelernt, the lead ACLU attorney representing migrant families said in a statement to ABC News that the progress was notable, but much more work needs to be done, noting they continue to look for 150 separated families.
“The task force should be given credit for reunifying 500 families, but unfortunately there is still a long way to go to remedy the historic wrong committed by the Trump administration,” Gelernt said. “Beyond reunification, these families deserve comprehensive relief, including a chance to remain in the United States.”
Armando Garcia and Luke Barr contributed to this report.
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