On Tuesday, the White House is expected to announce a task force that will look at demands for restitution, expanded mental health services, the readmission of deported parents and possible permanent legal residency for families like who suffered lingering damage from a policy intended to make it too emotionally punishing for migrant families to attempt to cross into the US.
One of the continuing obstacles to reunification is that hundreds of parents have been deported to their home countries — places they had fled because of the danger there — and are fearful of having their children sent home to them. And some children are being deported even though their parents are still in the United States trying to obtain legal residence.
Having inherited the crisis, the Biden administration has committed to addressing it: On Tuesday, Biden is expected to announce a task force that will look at demands for restitution, expanded mental health services, the readmission of deported parents and possible permanent legal residency for families disrupted by separations.
Biden has already encountered resistance to dismantling Trump administration policies, signaling roadblocks ahead. A federal court last week temporarily blocked his administration from enforcing a 100-day suspension of deportations until the judge considers a lawsuit brought by the State of Texas. The Senate confirmation of Mr. Mayorkas was stalled by Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri.
Nearly 3,000 migrant children were separated from their parents while zero tolerance was in force. It later emerged that another 1,000 families had been separated during a pilot program conducted in 2017 near El Paso. And even after Trump officially rescinded the policy, border authorities removed more than 1,000 children from their families, sometimes for reasons as minor as committing a traffic infraction or failing to change a baby’s diaper, according to court documents. Two-thirds of the parents are believed to be in their home countries, including some whose children may be living in the United States, and a third are believed to be in the United States but might have gone under the radar because of their own fears of being deported.
Even if the Biden administration is willing to offer green cards to parents who were deported, the logistics will be challenging because many remain suspicious of the government and worry they will be arrested again. It is also not clear whether the issue of redress for the effects of family separation will be folded into Mr. Biden’s broader immigration plans, which some Republicans might oppose.
Unless Mr. Biden revamps border procedures, further separations will almost certainly occur when Border Patrol agents suspect that someone accompanying a child is not a parent or a legal guardian. Some parents lack birth certificates and documents to prove lineage. Border officials are tasked with guarding against the trafficking of children across borders.