The Biden administration announced this week that it had reunited 100 families who were separated at the US-Mexico border under the Trump administration, though hundreds more children remain apart from their parents or guardians.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced the 100th reunification on Twitter Thursday, praising “our partners in the community who work tirelessly, every day, in support of those in need.”
In a subsequent tweet, Mayorkas revealed that the Department of Homeland Security has “identified and registered an additional 345 children for unification.”
“We can do this together,” the secretary emphasized, urging separated families to register with the government online.
“Reunified families will be granted humanitarian parole to allow them to live and work in the United States,” the DHS chief said. “With our partners in the community, we can provide services that help the reunified families live here and heal here, together.”
The reunifications come the same month that the Biden administration re-implemented the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy – which requires asylum seekers attempting to enter the US by crossing the southern border to wait in Mexico until their cases are heard.
The administration has made several changes to the policy, including offering COVID-19 vaccines to all eligible migrants, as well as a vaccination requirement to re-enter the US.
Additionally, DHS has also asked the public to submit recommendations about how the government can avoid separating migrant families in the future.
“Public feedback will be used to help develop recommendations to President Biden on how to prevent the Federal Government from implementing in the future the cruel and inhumane practice of intentionally separating families at the border as a tool of deterrence,” DHS said in a statement, adding that comments would be accepted through Jan. 10.
“It is unconscionable to separate children from their parents as a means to deter migration,” Mayorkas at the time. “I have met with separated families and heard firsthand of the immense trauma they have suffered. We have an obligation to reunite separated families and ensure this cruel practice never happens again.”
Earlier this fall, the White House was considering paying separated families up to $450,000 per person to settle lawsuits brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups. However, the Justice Department pulled out of the talks earlier this month.
“While the parties have been unable to reach a global settlement agreement at this time, we remain committed to engaging with the plaintiffs and to bringing justice to the victims of this abhorrent policy,” the DOJ said at the time.
The administration has also announced it will restart construction to fill gaps left in the border wall when President Biden halted construction upon taking office. There will be no further construction after the gaps are closed.
This year has seen historically high numbers of illegal border crossings from Mexico, with around 1.7 million apprehended in the 12-month period ending Sept. 30. Last month, border officials apprehended more than 173,000 migrants – the first uptick in arrests after three consecutive months of decline.