WASHINGTON — The Biden administration’s task force for reuniting migrant families separated by the Trump administration will allow separated families the option of being reunified either in the U.S. or their county of origin, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on Monday.
Mayorkas called the separation of thousands of migrant families under the Trump administration “the most powerful and heartbreaking example of the cruelty that preceded this administration,” in a White House briefing.
“We are hoping to reunite the families either here or in their country of origin. We hope to be in a position to give them the election and if in fact they seek to reunite here in the United States, we will explore lawful pathways for them to remain in the United States and to address the family needs,” Mayorkas said.
Lawyers representing the families in a federal lawsuit had called on the Biden administration to make such a move to allow parents who were separated from their children and then deported without them to come back to the United States to reunify.
They argued that without special protections for those parents to come back to the United States, they are forced to choose between bringing their children back to dangerous conditions in their home counties or remaining separated.
“These separated families suffered unfathomably because of what our government did, and we owe them restitution. This includes a permanent pathway to citizenship, care, and resources to help them,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero.
Mayorkas also announced Michelle Brané as executive director of the task force, as NBC News previously reported. He said the task force will be working with non-governmental organizations as well as the countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Other benefits and protections the task force will give the separated families include transportation, healthcare and mental health services as well as legal, career and educational services, with no costs being passed down to families.
A DHS spokesperson said that the task force will also consider siblings of children separated for reunification.