Families that had been split under the Trump administration’s child separation policy at the U.S.-Mexico border will begin reuniting this week, according to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
Mayorkas announced in a statement on Monday that his Family Reunification Task Force “has been working day and night, across the federal government and with counsel for the families and our foreign partners, to address the prior administration’s cruel separation of children from their parents.”
“Today is just the beginning,” he said. “We are reuniting the first group of families, many more will follow, and we recognize the importance of providing these families with the stability and resources they need to heal.”
Per CNN, Mayorkas told reporters on Sunday that the first four families being reunited this week “are mothers, they are sons, they are daughters, they are children who were three years old at the time of separation” and “teenagers who have had to live without their parent during their most formative years.”
Two of the mothers were separated from their sons in late 2017, Mayorkas reportedly said.
The New York Times reports that the four parents who will cross the border in Texas and California to be reunited with their children are women from Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico.
Another 30 migrant parents will be allowed to enter the U.S. to reunite with their kids in 30 to 60 days, according to the Times.
The Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, a deliberately cruel deterrent against migration that secretly began in 2017 and was officially announced in 2018, led to more than 5,400 children being taken away from their parents, according to the ACLU.
Authorities were still unable to locate the parents of 445 children by April 7 this year, the Justice Department and ACLU reported in a court filing.
Mayorkas’s announcement comes several weeks after the administration was hit with criticism over President Joe Biden’s plans to maintain his predecessor’s historically low refugee cap of 15,000 before he reversed course and pledged to raise the number by an unknown amount. The Justice Department also came under fire for moving forward with Trump-era lawsuits to seize land for the former president’s border wall, which took place while the Biden administration said it was reviewing those cases.