DHS Secretary Mayorkas Promises to Provide Restitution and Resettlement
Yesterday, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas showed that elections matter. He promised to reunite families separated by Donald Trump and Stephen Miller; he rightly called out the previous administration for dismantling the entire immigration and asylum system and doing so with cruelty; and he promised to put in place a fair and orderly system that respects our laws, the humanity of immigrants and refugees, and our nation’s aspiration to be a welcoming nation.
The Biden administration commits to reunite – and resettle – families ripped apart by Trump
Trump’s family separation policy of ripping over 5,000 kids from the arms of their parents remains a moral stain on America. Accurately described by experts as state-sponsored kidnapping and torture, family separation is likely to go down in history as one of America’s worst human rights atrocities.
The Biden administration is acting with urgency to find, reunify and make restitution to families torn apart by the actions of our government. In the past month, an additional 105 parents have been located. And yesterday, Secretary Mayorkas stated,
We are hoping to reunite the families, either here or in the country of origin … 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 so we are acting as restoratively as possible.
This is a major – and welcome – commitment. Secretary Mayorkas also announced the family reunification task force would be headed by Michelle Brané, formerly of the Women’s Refugee Commission. Michelle is a colleague, friend and fierce advocate. She’s the right person for the job and we are grateful she agreed to step up to lead this historic effort.
“The entire system was gutted”
Mayorkas noted yesterday that the Biden administration is “working around-the-clock to replace the cruelty of the past administration with an orderly, humane and safe immigration process … the prior administration dismantled our nation’s immigration system in its entirety … Quite frankly, the entire system was gutted.”
Here’s a reminder of just a few elements of the cruel and chaotic mess left behind by Trump and Miller’s four years:
- They ended aid and investments in Central America aimed at reducing violence in the communities that generate refugees and migrants.
- They separated thousands of families at the border, shocking the conscience of Americans and the world, with some 500 kids yet to be reunited with their parents.
- They ended any chance of applying for refugee status from home countries — including the program that rescued kids in danger — and cut off discussions of refugee processing from neighboring countries, leaving the U.S.-Mexico border as the only viable place to apply for safety and freedom.
- After restricting the asylum rules to make it much more difficult for applicants to be approved, they ended the option of applying for asylum at the border entirely, using the cover of the pandemic to expel all arrivals – even kids fleeing violence and arriving at the border without their parents.
- They built 450 miles of border wall – the antithesis to the Statue of Liberty – a Trump vanity project and offensive monstrosity that does nothing to intelligently manage the flow of refugees and migrants from Central America and elsewhere.
- They threw those seeking freedom and safety into detention centers that turned into COVID hotspots and deported the virus to multiple countries.
- They based their zero tolerance policies on a false assertion of “catch and release.” The American Immigration Council recently released a deep-dive report that found, “83% of all non detained immigrants with completed or pending removal cases from Fiscal Years (FY) 2008 through 2018 attended all of their court hearings. Among those who were represented by counsel during the same time period, 96% attended all of their court hearings.”
- They dismantled successful and cost-effect case management programs, an initiative that resulted in 99% of applicants complying with court dates.
- They effectively ended the refugee program and the extensive resettlement network of private and public institutions that helped families fleeing violence establish themselves in communities across the country.
- They halted almost all forms of legal immigration and visa issuance – including the processing of unaccompanied minors – using COVID as cover.
The following is a statement from Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
Donald Trump and Stephen Miller ripped toddlers and teenagers from their parents to send a dehumanizing deterrence message to those fleeing for their lives. The Biden administration has put together a task force, led by a leading refugee advocate, to find, restore and resettle these families. It is imperative that this task force succeed. Unless and until these traumatized families are made whole, and those responsible held accountable, the dark chapter of family separation will remain an open wound.
America once described itself as a beacon of hope, a country that welcomed refugees and immigrants in a way that made us a stronger nation. Trump and Miller savagely attacked this self-description, ignored our laws, imposed incalculable cruelty on immigrants and refugees, and demeaned our standing in the world.
Mayorkas is right. The system was gutted. It’s time to build back better. We will continue to push the administration to make good on its promises, and to do so as quickly as possible.