Biden administration reunites hundreds of kids separated from parents under Trump’s brutal policies

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“I would have loved to have this happen much more quickly. But we are making progress and I feel like we’re gaining momentum,” Brané said, Associated Press reports. Adding: “This is just the beginning of this ramp up and hopefully families will see that reunifications are happening and they will feel confident coming forward.”

Biden has made it his mission since day one in office to reverse course on the cruel and punitive measures put in place under Trump. About 5,500 children were forcibly removed from their parents in 2018 under orders from Trump and orchestrated by his senior advisor and immigration hardliner, Stephen Miller. 

Per the Southern Poverty Law Center, Miller is credited with policies that demonized immigrants, regardless of their immigration status, all in an apparent effort to halt all forms of immigration to the U.S. 

“Stephen actually enjoys seeing those pictures at the border,” an outside White House adviser told Vanity Fair. “He’s a twisted guy, the way he was raised and picked on. There’s always been a way he’s gone about this. He’s Waffen-SS.”

It was only after widespread condemnation that Trump ended zero-tolerance in June 2018, just before a judge ordered an end to the program after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit. But by then the damage had been done and thousands of children were effectively lost. 

A study done by the Physicians for Human Rights Asylum Program noted the long-term impacts of separation on the migrant kids—psychological harms and trauma, including PTSD, depression, and anxiety. 

Biden issued an executive order requiring the reunification of children and families, and nearly a year later, the enterprise has made remarkable headway. 

The work to reunify the families has been challenging for a number of reasons, including the children’s missing or inadequate records and the fact that many of the children’s families are located in remote villages in Central American communities and the task force has had trouble tracking them down. 

According to Newsweek, as of September, the task force had reunited 50 families, then a partnership with the International Organization for Migration and the development of an online portal was announced. The portal (Juntos.gov and Together.gov) is used by parents to contact the U.S. government and speed up the reunification process. 

Today, parents and kids arriving in the U.S. are being granted humanitarian parole to reside in the country for a minimum of three years and may pursue permanent status through asylum or another program. They are also receiving counseling services.

Hundreds of migrant families have filed suits against the federal government, but last week, the Justice Department broke off negotiations to pay settlements without an explanation. 

“We can see no reason for this other than this administration does not want to use any political capital to help these children,” Lee Gelernt, a lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union, and one of the lead negotiators told NPR. “History will not judge this decision kindly.”

In a statement, the DOJ said the parties have been unable to reach a settlement, but “we remain committed to engaging with the plaintiffs and to bringing justice to the victims of this abhorrent policy.”

Many in the GOP who on the one hand said they found zero-tolerance inhumane and draconian, argued against giving families case settlements. 

Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa said he takes the entire concept of compensation as a personal affront.

“As you can imagine, many Americans think it’s a pretty outrageous idea to offer massive taxpayer-funded payments to illegal immigrants who broke our laws,” Grassley told DHS secretary Alejandro Mayorkas during a Department of Homeland Security hearing on immigration last month

Grassley compared the migrant’s possible settlement with the money family of service members who die on active duty receive ($100.000), saying, “Under what circumstances if any do you think it’s appropriate for an illegal immigrant who broke our laws to receive more money from the government than the family of a fallen service member.” 

Immigration rights activists decried the decision by the DOJ to pull out of negotiations with the migrant families. 

“This move is a shameful, profound betrayal of the government’s responsibility to redress the harms of this heinous policy,” Katharina Obser, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program with the group, said in a statement.

“While the U.S. can never undo what happened, we expected the Biden administration to engage in good faith with efforts for redress and repair,” she said, adding that “the cruelty of intentionally tearing families apart inflicted unspeakable and permanent trauma on children and their parents coming to the U.S. border seeking safety.”





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