More than 2,100 children separated at the border by Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” program “have not yet been reunified” with their parents, according to the task force working to reunite the families.
In a 22-page progress report submitted to President Joe Biden last week, the task force indicated that 2,127 children are awaiting their reunions.
Only seven children have rejoined their families since Biden took office in January.
A senior DHS official, in a call with reporters, blamed “numerous errors and misinformation” in data kept by the Trump administration for the cumbersome reunification process.
“No comprehensive interagency system was in place to separate parents and their migrant children,” the official said.
The report, released publicly Tuesday during Vice President Kamala Harris’ trip to Guatemala and Mexico, states that 29 additional families “will be reunited in the coming weeks” and allowed to enter the United States under humanitarian parole, which lasts 36 months and can be renewed.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said last month that he could not guarantee permanent legal status for the families, but added, "we're going to do everything we can to make it work out."
The Biden administration says 1,786 children have “already been reunified with their parent,” most as a result of a court order during the Trump administration, a number the ACLU says may already be higher.
“We believe there are more people reunified because of the court order than 1,786, and we will be looking to share that data with the government,” said Lee Gelernt, the deputy director of the ACLU’s immigrant rights project.
The pace of reunifications and scope of the task force’s work, which also includes providing “behavioral health services with a focus on trauma-related care,” has been criticized by some lawyers representing the families.
“We intentionally started slow so we could go fast later,” the senior DHS official said of the pace of reunifications.
“Would we have liked them to move quicker? Yes. Do they need to move at a much more rapid pace? Absolutely,” said Gelernt of the ACLU. “Could it have been done with a snap of the fingers? No. It is complex.”
The progress report was mandated as part of Biden’s executive order forming the task force and was due 120 days after he signed it.
The report states that 3,913 children separated from their families between July 2017 and January have been identified. The ACLU has said more than 5,400 children were separated at the border. The discrepancy, the DHS official said, is due to thousands of yet-to-be-reviewed files by the task force.
The report does not mention accountability for members of the Trump administration responsible for the policy, though as a candidate Biden called the policy “criminal” and as president-elect, promised a “thorough, thorough investigation” of the policy by his Department of Justice.