WASHINGTON — The Biden administration's task force for reuniting migrant families separated by the Trump administration will give separated families the option to be reunified in the U.S. or their countries of origin, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Monday.
Mayorkas said in a White House briefing that the separation of thousands of migrant families during the Trump administration was "the most powerful and heartbreaking example of the cruelty that preceded this administration."
"We are hoping to reunite the families either here or in their country of origin. We hope to be in a position to give them the election, and if, in fact, they seek to reunite here in the United States, we will explore lawful pathways for them to remain in the United States and to address the family needs," he said.
Attorneys representing the families in a federal lawsuit had called on the Biden administration to allow parents who were separated from their children and then deported without them to come back to the U.S. to reunify.
They argued that without special protections, parents are forced to choose between bringing their children back to dangerous conditions in their home counties or remaining separated.
"These separated families suffered unfathomably because of what our government did, and we owe them restitution. This includes a permanent pathway to citizenship, care and resources to help them," said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Mayorkas also announced the appointment of Michelle Brané as executive director of the task force, as NBC News previously reported. He said the task force will work with nongovernmental organizations, as well as the countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Other benefits and protections for separated families include transportation, health care and mental health services, as well as legal, career and educational services, with no costs passed down to families.
A DHS spokesperson said the task force will also consider siblings of separated children for reunification.