Biden administration expanding efforts to reunite separated migrant families

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The U.S. government is offering at least three years of legal residency to parents who were separated from their children under the Trump administration as part of an effort to expand assistance to the families.

The Biden administration launched the Together.gov and Spanish-language counterpart Juntos.gov websites to reach families living throughout Latin America who were separated by former President Trump’s zero tolerance policy.

The move comes after the Family Reunification Task Force launched in February. It has since reunited some 50 families, just a portion of the at least 500 children who were still separated, according to court filings from earlier this year.

The Trump administration separated roughly 2,800 children from their parents under the 2018 policy, though that figure could be higher.

The Biden administration is currently reviewing some 5,600 files to determine if there were other families affected by Trump’s policy.

“We recognize that we can’t make these families completely whole again,” Michelle Brané, executive director of the administration’s Family Reunification Task Force, told The Associated Press, which first reported the expanded effort. “But we want to do everything we can to put them on a path towards a better life.”

The websites create an application process for those separated under Trump to apply for “humanitarian parole,” which allows the U.S. to admit those who might not otherwise meet immigration requirements. The Department of Homeland Security will aim to review the claims within 30 days.

“Upon entry to the United States, you will be eligible to apply for work authorization and for services to help reduce your stress and provide emotional support as you come back together with your family,” the administration wrote on the site.

Elsewhere, the government promises “counseling and other services to help ensure a successful reunification.”

The program relies on the International Organization for Migration to help applicants fill out the forms.

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The announcement is the most concrete move yet since Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in March said that families separated under the Trump administration would be allowed to remain in the U.S.

“We are hoping to reunite the families, either here or in their country of origin,” Mayorkas said at a press briefing.

“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,” he added. “We are acting as restoratively as possible.”