Dec 6, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Exclusive: Over 280 migrant children to be reunited with their families

The Department of Homeland Security has identified more than 280 migrant children since September who are now in the process of being reunited with their families, a DHS spokesperson told Axios.

What's happening: President Biden's family reunification task force in September established two websites, one in English and one in Spanish, for separated families to directly sign up for reunification. To date, 284 children have been identified through the websites and are on the path to reunification.

  • DHS initially told Axios that 279 had been identified, but it updated the number later on Monday.
  • The children are from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Brazil and Venezuela. 

Catch up quick: The Trump administration in 2018 established its "zero-tolerance" policy with a goal to criminally prosecute 100% of immigrants caught illegally crossing the border. As a result, almost 4,000 children were separated from their parents from July 1, 2017, to Jan. 20, 2021.

By the numbers: In its latest progress report released in October, the task force said that, as of Sept. 23, 1,727 children were still separated from their families. Subtracting those who have been identified through the task force websites, there are 1,443 children separated from their families.

  • A DHS spokesperson told Axios that, as of Monday, the task force has reunited 63 families, bringing the total of reunited children to 2,234 — the other 2,171 were reunified through non-governmental organizations.

Details: In two videos shared first with Axios, Michelle Brané, executive director of the family reunification task force, says that people can self-register on or to reunite with their families. If the task force finds them eligible, they will be contacted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) "to start the reunification process."

  • The IOM will help individuals prepare and submit their applications for humanitarian parole, obtain necessary documents and facilitate travel into the U.S.

Of note: Families who are reunited and arrive in the U.S. are eligible for three years of humanitarian parole and work authorization. They have the option to renew that status once it expires.

What they're saying: "President Biden’s Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families has made significant and important progress towards family reunifications including establishing a working system for families to reunify in the United States," Brané said in a statement.

  • "We encourage families who were separated under the prior administration’s 'zero-tolerance' policy and seeking reunification to self-identify and register through our official websites, and"

Between the lines: DHS is releasing the videos later on Monday, the same day the Biden administration is restarting the Trump-era "Remain in Mexico" program, which forces asylum seekers to wait in Mexico ahead of their immigration court hearings in the U.S.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details on the number of children identified through the websites.

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