The Biden administration is slowly inching toward its goal of connecting and reuniting families split apart by the former administration’s immigration policies, identifying almost 4,000 children separated during the previous administration.
The Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families on Tuesday released its first report after President Biden in February ordered officials to identify how many children were separated from their parents and to connect families who wished to reunite.
According to the new report, the previous administration separated at least 3,913 children from their parents or guardians between July 1, 2017, and Jan. 20, 2021. More than 1,700 other separations are under review, and officials are reviewing case files from January to June of 2017 to determine if even more families were separated.
While 1,779 children have been reunited with their families, most of those cases were resolved prior to the establishment of the task force in February, mainly through connections facilitated by non-governmental organizations.
But progress has slowed considerably; the task force has reunified just seven families over the past 30 days and expects to reunify a further 29 families “in the coming weeks.”
While officials have a record of 2,127 separated children who have yet to formally reunite with their parents, the task force report recognized the possibility that “some children and parents may have already reunified on their own.”
Biden administration officials blamed a lack of record-keeping on the part of their predecessors for the slow pace of identification and reunification.
“While the Task Force has overcome many of the initial hurdles encountered during the first 120 days, key decisions and challenges remain. Most notably, the Task Force must continue to tackle the absence of family separation records maintained by the prior Administration,” reads the task force report.
The task force’s main partner for reunification has been the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which led the push during the Trump years to denounce immigration policies that were forcibly separating families.