The United States said Monday it will reunite the first four migrant families who were separated at the U.S. border with Mexico during Donald Trump's presidency, with the administration of President Joe Biden promising it is "just the beginning" of more reunifications.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas declined to identify the families involved in the first reunifications, set to take place this week, but said two of the four families included mothers separated from their children in late 2017, one Honduran and the other Mexican.
The Biden Cabinet official described the children, all of whom have been living in the U.S., as being 3 years old at the time of their separations and "teenagers who have had to live without their parents during their most formative years."
Parents of the children are returning to the United States on what the government is calling humanitarian parole while officials consider other longer-term options to keep the families together, according to Michelle Brane, executive director of the Biden administration's Family Reunification Task Force.
Mayorkas told reporters the government would continue "to reunite many more children with their parents in the weeks and months ahead. We have a lot of work still to do, but I am proud of the progress we have made and the reunifications that we have helped to achieve this week."
Brane said the government believes that more than 1,000 families remain separated. Officials have said many parents separated from their children, mostly from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, have been difficult to find. The exact number to be reunited depends on the outcome of negotiations with the American Civil Liberties Union to settle a federal lawsuit in San Diego, California, near the border.
The Trump administration separated more than 5,000 children at the U.S.-Mexico border from their parents as part of a get-tough effort under which any adult who entered the country illegally was prosecuted. But he ended the child-separation practice amid sharp international criticism and a June 2018 court order.