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US: Hundreds of migrant children still apart from family

February 2, 2023

Under former US President Donald Trump thousands of migrant families were split up at the US-Mexico border. A special task force has been working to reunite children with their parents, but it's got a long way to go.

Children from Mexico and Central America line up for their breakfast at a migrant shelter in Tijuana, Mexico
An outcry over the separation of migrant families at the border prompted Trump to shelve the policy in 2018Image: GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP/Getty Images

Almost 1,000 migrant children who were separated from their families at the US-Mexico border under a Trump-era policy still haven't been reunited with their parents.

The data was released Thursday by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

US President Joe Biden pledged to reunify all children separated from their families under the previous administration and formed a task force soon after taking office in January 2021 to make that happen.

The DHS said 600 children had been reunited in the two years since the task force was set up, but some 998 children are still living apart from their families. Of those kids, 148 are in the process of reunification, it added.

"We understand that our critical work is not finished," Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. "We reaffirm our commitment to work relentlessly to reunite the other families who suffered because of the prior cruel and inhumane policy." 

US overhauls immigration policy

Trump's 'zero-tolerance' approach

Thousands of migrant families, most of them from Central America, were split up under former President Donald Trump's blanket "zero-tolerance" policy.

Imposed in spring 2018, it sought to prosecute all individuals who crossed the border illegally. Children cannot be jailed with their family members so they were separated from their relatives and taken into custody by the Health and Human Services.

The separation policy was widely criticized as inhumane by political and religious leaders. The outcry prompted Trump to stop the practice in June 2018, just days before the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) successfully sued to halt the separations.  

Kids still wait for reunion

A court process that resulted from the ACLU suit meant many separated children were identified and reunited with their families before Biden took office.

A number of families are in the process of suing the US government seeking compensation for the separations.

nm/jsi (Reuters, AP)