Biden administration: Over 3,900 children separated under Trump ‘zero-tolerance’ policy

WASHINGTON – Biden administration officials have determined more than 3,900 children were separated from their parents under former President Donald Trump’s “zero-tolerance policy,” according to a new report from the task force designed to reunify migrant families.

According to findings from the Reunification of Families Task Force, 3,913 children were separated between July 2017 and January 2021.

Activists had previously put that number at over 5,000 children.

Indeed, the task force determined a total of 5,636 children were separated between July 1, 2017, and Jan. 20, 2021. However, only 3,913 were separated under zero-tolerance-related policies, according to the task force. There are still 1,723 children whose separations remain under review.

A DHS official said that with the help of nongovernmental organizations, 1,779 children were reunited with parents in the U.S. under past court orders due. Seven additional children were reunited over the last 30 days through the task force and NGO coordination, the official said.

The official said the task force believes it identified nearly all the children who were separated from their parents under zero-tolerance policies.

“When we reunified the first seven families last month, I said that this was just the beginning,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. “In the coming weeks, we will reunify 29 more families.”

President Joe Biden announced the creation of the task force in February, and tapped Mayorkas to lead it. Its report was submitted June 2 to Biden, who had asked for initial progress report no later than 120 days after the task force was established.

Under Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy, thousands of families arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border were separated in an effort to discourage migration. The Trump administration received harsh criticism for the policy and rescinded it in June 2018. Despite that, there were still cases of family separation.

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The DHS official said there are 2,127 children for whom the task force does not have a confirmed record of reunification. It is suspected that many of those children were reunited, but that wasn’t confirmed or reported by the government, the official said.

Twenty-nine families this month are expected to be granted humanitarian parole in the United States and will be reunified in the coming weeks. Under the parole, families will be provided with services to overcome the experiences of being separated and to help rebuild their lives.They are allowed to remain in the U.S. for an initial 36-month period. While families can apply to renew the parole, there is no long-term pathway to citizenship for them, a DHS official said.

The report also detailed errors in record keeping under the Trump administration, including incorrect dates and names, the official said. In addition, the task force found that some children had been matched to the wrong adults, a senior Department of Homeland Security official said.

Reach Rebecca Morin at Twitter @RebeccaMorin_

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is back on Capitol Hill facing questions about the immigration problems along the Southern Border. (May 13)

AP Domestic

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