Biden Forms Taskforce To Reunify Families Separated At Mexican Border
Speaker 1: 00:00 President Biden made a statement as he signed an executive order yesterday, it addressed a particularly sore point for the president, the Trump administration's family separation policy at the border. Speaker 2: 00:12 We're going to work to undo the moral and national shame of the previous administration that literally not figuratively ripped children from the arms of their families, their mothers and fathers at the border, and with no plan, none whatsoever to reunify the children who were still in custody and, uh, and their parents Speaker 1: 00:31 Biden's order creates a government task force in an effort to reunify the hundreds of families that remain separated. But some advocates say a task force is not a plan to bring these families back together. Joining me is KPBS reporter max Rivlin Nadler, max. Welcome. Good to be here. How many families max were separated at the U S Mexico border under the Trump zero tolerance policy and how many remain apart? Speaker 3: 00:59 We'll never get exact numbers because one of the main issues was that records were not kept, but we do know that over 5,000 families were separated under the zero tolerance policy. Uh, something that doesn't get reported as much as that almost, you know, a significant number were reunited, uh, quickly after the judge Dana's abroad here in San Diego, a federal judge ordered the end of the family separation policy right now, the estimates are that around a thousand families remain separated under the zero tolerance policy and have not yet been reunited. Speaker 1: 01:34 The Trump administration was, as you mentioned, ordered by the court to reunite these families and advocacy groups have been trying to do just that. Why is it so difficult for these remaining actually hundreds of families that remain separated Speaker 3: 01:50 Administration was ordered to reunite the families that were in their custody, people that had already been deported. That's far more difficult. And actually the weight was thrown onto advocacy groups and plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Like, you know, the ACLU who had to go and track down people who had been deported, who might not want to be found who had just gone through a terrible experience in the custody of customs and border protection, where their children were taken away from them. Um, and, and local non-profits on either side of the border here joined in that effort. Here's Erica Pinero who works for the organization, a low turtle lotto Speaker 4: 02:24 In between August and December of 2018. Uh, I love throw Laos and staff and contract attorneys and volunteers to central America on five separate trips, um, to Honduras El Salvador and Guatemala, to meet with parents in person and prepare petitions for their return. Speaker 3: 02:46 So they actually had to go down and find these people. And a lot of these individuals, like I said before, you know, didn't want necessarily to come back to the U S given the, you know, incredibly egregious experience they were given by the U S government. Speaker 1: 03:03 But one major demand of the advocates of separated families is that these reunifications do take place in the U S why is that Speaker 3: 03:12 One hurdle that these groups had to get through is that the us wasn't just accepting parents. Once they were found, they had to have a valid asylum claim, uh, which was a huge hurdle to get through, to be able to come to the U S so even if they had located parents getting them, not only from, you know, central America through Mexico, which is a dangerous journey to the Southern border is difficult. And then even getting the us to agree to take them. So one of their demands is that they come to the U S with already legal status, um, and can be guaranteed that as opposed to this dangerous journey, that is a lot to ask for parents. Many of whom have children back in central America or family back in central America, things that would have them want to stay as opposed to risking it all again, Speaker 1: 03:58 Is granting some sort of legal status in the U S to parents who reunify with their kids is that part of the Biden plan, Speaker 3: 04:06 The Biden plan is yet to be determined, right? That's why he created this task force, but he did outline that there was some ability for the state to offer travel visas, some other legal methods for people to come into the U S they could be paroled in at a port of entry. It's all being determined right now. So, you know, it's not completely out of the question that people will get these visas that have the kids are asking for. Speaker 1: 04:28 It's going to be part of this task force, and do they have a timeline to get this reunification accomplished? Speaker 3: 04:35 So the task force right now is the department of Homeland security. Uh, the state department, department of justice, health, and human services, all of these different branches of government that have not been coordinating over the past few months after the settlement for the federal lawsuit against child separation. So a lot of time has passed for these groups to kind of start working together, to try to locate the children who might be in the U S custody or might be with a sponsor, might be with family, and then also get in touch with those parents in central America. So the timeline of this task force is as quickly as possible. Um, you know, we'll see what that actually means. It's entirely possible that tomorrow they'll have recommendations, but it could take as long as six months to a year, Speaker 1: 05:17 The president signed another executive order about asylum seekers at the U S Mexico border. What does that do? Speaker 3: 05:25 Again? It orders the department of Homeland security secretary to look into ways to expedite asylum processing at the Southern border to look into winding down the remain in Mexico program, also known as the migrant protection protocols, which has sent thousands of asylum seekers back to Tijuana and other border towns to wait while their asylum claim gets processed in the U S but no firm actions are taken. It's just basically said to look into, um, you know, basically changing from Trump administration policy and something that the vitamin illustration has been stressing is that things are not going to happen overnight. What advocates are saying on behalf of asylum seekers is that you speed is something that, you know, they have the power to do. They can parole people in tomorrow because people are not only being deported right now, but people are staying in dangerous and pandemic stricken, uh, border cities. Speaker 1: 06:16 I've been speaking with KPBS reporter, max Revlon Nadler, max. Thank you very much. Thank you.