The Biden administration has reunited more than 600 migrant children with their families after thousands of kids were separated under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy at the southern U.S. border.
The Department of Homeland Security said Thursday that nearly 1,000 children still need to be reunited with their relatives, the second anniversary of the task force created to help with the reunifications. Many of those kids are Central American migrants who were separated from their parents at the border and placed in detention centers. The effort was part of the Trump administration’s hardline approach to immigration, meant to deter millions of migrants from seeking asylum in the U.S. during his tenure in the White House.
The policy was lambasted as cruel and inhumane by critics, and it has taken years for government officials to reconnect relatives and their young children.
“We understand that our critical work is not finished,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to fulfill President Biden’s pledge to reunify all children who were separated from their families under the ‘zero-tolerance’ policy to the greatest extent possible, and we continue to work diligently to incorporate the foundational principle of family unity in our policies and operations.”
The agency added that the number of new families that need support continues to grow as they come forward and identify themselves as separated.
President Joe Biden launched a task force shortly after he took office in 2021 to reunite families, but the effort has been difficult. Officials said the Trump administration’s information about separated families “was patchwork at best” and “pieced together from segmented documentation.”
About 4,000 children were identified who were separated from their families, and just under 3,000 of those have been reunited (many of whom were reunited before Biden took office). Now, 148 children are in the process of reunification and 183 families have been contacted to be reconnected with their kids.
“We have made significant progress toward reunifying families and providing them with necessary services and support,” DHS said Thursday. “This critical work will continue until all separated families that can be found have been provided the opportunity to reunify.”