U.S. to begin reuniting families separated at border

The Biden administration on Monday announced that it would be reuniting four families separated during the Trump administration's so-called zero-tolerance policy at the southern border.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that one family is from Mexico, another from Honduras, and the previous administration had deported all four sets of parents while their children — one as young as 3 years old at the time — remained in the United States.

The announcement comes three months after President Joe Biden ordered the creation of the Family Reunification Task Force, an interagency group co-chaired Mayorkas, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, and Attorney General Merrick Garland.

"We'll reunite these children and reestablish our reputation as being a haven for people in need," Biden said at the time.

In a statement, Mayorkas said this is just the beginning.

"We are reuniting the first group of families, many more will follow," Mayorkas said, "and we recognize the importance of providing these families with the stability and resources they need to heal."

Lee Gelernt, the deputy director of the ACLU's Immigrant Rights Project, said these first reunifications are a good start.

"We're happy for these families that are going to be reunited this week but it's only four," Gelernt said. "More than a thousand remain separated."

The Trump administration separated upwards of 5,500 children from their parents from 2017 to 2018, when a federal judge ordered a stop to the program in a class-action lawsuit brought by the ACLU that turned less adversarial upon Biden's inauguration.

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"The ACLU and the Biden administration have now entered into settlement negotiations to give these families relief and to make sure it never happens again," Gelernt said.

In a tweet, Mayorkas described the families to be reunited this week as "mothers," "sons," and "daughters," with one child who was 3 years old when separated as well as "teenagers who have had to live without their parent during their most formative years."

And because of such traumas, Gelernt said the government owes the families more than reunification.

"We need more than the families coming back together," Gelernt said. "These families have been so traumatized, they need help if they have any chance of leading a healthy, productive life."

To that end, the ACLU, in its ongoing settlement negotiations with the Biden administration, is demanding the children be provided with legal permanent status, compensation, and social services like mental trauma care.