The announcement on family reunification comes as the Biden administration faces mounting criticism about its handling of the southern border — from both sides of the political spectrum. Hardliners blame the administration for encouraging a surge of unauthorized migration at the border by relaxing some of former President Donald Trump's immigration policies. Immigrant advocates say the Biden administration continues to send asylum-seekers back to danger in Mexico under an order put in place by his predecessor more than a year ago.
Michelle Brané, executive director of the family reunification task force and a longtime human rights advocate, said the parents would be given temporary permission to enter the U.S. through a process known as humanitarian parole. Brané said more than 1,000 families have yet to be reunited, although incomplete record-keeping by the Trump administration has made it difficult to give a precise number.
Immigrant advocates believe the Trump administration originally separated more than 5,500 families. A federal judge forced the Trump administration to reunite thousands of families in 2018, but that ruling did not help many parents who were deported before the case was filed. The ACLU is in settlement talks with the administration that would cover all of the separated families, Gelernt, of the ACLU, said in an interview. Immigrant rights groups have also urged the Biden administration to provide permanent legal status, as well as support services and potential financial compensation for families that were separated.
Brané said she could not detail any settlement negotiations.
"The one thing we did agree on is that we will continue to reunify those where we can as we move forward in those negotiations," she said. "So we hope that in the coming weeks and months, reunifications will continue until a larger formal process is announced."
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