EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — The White House announced Monday that it will allow families who were separated at the southern border during the Trump administration to reunite and remain in the U.S., according to The Hill.
At a press briefing Monday morning at the White House, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said: “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.
The Trump administation established a “zero tolerance” enforcement policy for migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, which resulted in thousands of family separations in 2018.
Some 2,800 families were separated, and while some were reunited, another 550 children were not reconnected with their parents under the prior administration, the Hill reported. Mayorkas said the family reunification task force reunited 105 families so far.
The “zero tolerance” policy meant that any adult caught crossing the border illegally would be prosecuted for illegal entry. Because children cannot be jailed with their family members, families were separated and children were taken into custody by Health and Human Services, which manages unaccompanied children at the border.
In January, the Justice Department rescinded the Trump-era memo that established the “zero tolerance.”
The Trump administration’s family-separation policy was second on a list of options to quickly respond to the “border surge of illegal immigration” in 2017, according to testimony during Chad Wolf’s confirmation hearing to move up from Acting Secretary to Secretary of Homeland Security.
The zero-tolerance policy, and 15 other suggestions, were compiled in a 2017 memo and given to then-Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen so she could have an idea of what to do “right away” instead of something that would have taken months to implement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.