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Biden task force looks for evidence of additional migrant family separations under Trump

Immigrant children walk in a line outside a shelter
Migrant children outside the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children in Homestead, Fla., in 2018.
(Associated Press)

A presidential task force working on reuniting migrant families has started to look through some 5,600 files to capture the full scope of separations at the border under the Trump administration, an official told reporters Wednesday.

The files date back to the first six months of former President Trump’s term and were not previously reviewed for separations as part of the class-action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in San Diego federal court, the Department of Homeland Security official said during the briefing, according to NBC News.

Any newly discovered prior separations would add to the roughly 5,400 children who are known to have been split from their parents since 2017, including some whose parents were deemed to be safety concerns due to prior criminal records.

Thousands of children were reunited during a court-ordered push in 2018, but possibly more than 1,000 remain apart.

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The task force’s file review is an early indication of its ability to reach beyond the bounds of the litigation to address the separations, a Trump-era legacy that President Biden has described as “a moral and national shame.”

The task force, created weeks after Biden’s inauguration, has yet to reunite any families, according to media reports. The group will also explore legal pathways to allow the reunited families to stay in the U.S., according to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas, who has not provided any additional details.

The Biden administration’s willingness to restore separated families has opened the door for official settlement negotiations in the ACLU case.

The parties met with a magistrate judge over Zoom on March 31, but a settlement wasn’t reached, according to court records. Another attempt will be made during a conference next week.

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Attorneys for both sides disclosed no other details about the negotiations in a status report filed with the court on Wednesday.

Pro-bono lawyers and nonprofits are continuing to try to find the parents of more than 445 children, the bulk of whom were separated at the Texas border under a 2017 pilot program. About 300 of the parents are believed to have been deported, while more than 100 may be in the United States, possibly even reunited with their children.


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