Lee Gelernt, leading attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), told NBC News the family reunification process was “complex,” but that the organization, which sued the previous administration over the inhumane family separation policy, would continue pushing the Biden administration for swifter action.
“We would really have liked to see more progress by now but intend to make sure that the government picks up the pace,” he told CBS News. “The president has called this a historic moral stain on the country and therefore, we believe the government needs to do whatever it takes to get these families reunited.” According to the report, more than three dozen parents and siblings of separated children have been approved by the Biden administration to enter the U.S. through humanitarian parole.
The task force’s progress report further reveals that the Biden administration believes that at least 3,913 children were stolen from their families by the prior administration from July 2017 through 2021. This number is significantly lower than the nearly 5,500 children reported by the ACLU in late 2019. “The discrepancy, the DHS official said, is due to thousands of yet-to-be-reviewed files by the task force,” NBC News reported.
CBS News further said that five of these kids have been in U.S. custody since their separation because a U.S. relative has not been located to sponsor them. Child welfare experts have said that even short amounts of separation from a parent can be traumatic to kids. The Department of Health and Human Services’ watchdog said in 2019 that children separated under the previous administration’s policy have believed their parents had abandoned them, or were dead.
“The report does not mention accountability for members of the Trump administration responsible for the policy, though as a candidate Biden called the policy ‘criminal’ and as president-elect, promised a ‘thorough, thorough investigation’ of the policy by his Department of Justice,” NBC News reported. In widely reported remarks this past April, Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar said she believed a former White House aide and noted white supremacist who was a main architect of the previous administration’s most inhumane and cruel anti-immigrant policies should be locked up for his crimes.
“I think Stephen Miller should be behind bars,” Escobar told The Intercept in April. She represents the El Paso region, where the previous administration “piloted” the family separation policy before its official implementation in 2018. “I think he committed heinous human rights violations, and I think that those around him who helped plot this out should be held accountable as well.”