ACLU urges Biden to allow separated families to return to US, be given legal status
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is urging President-elect Joe Biden to allow families separated by the Trump administration to be able to return to the U.S., the AP reports. While Biden has pledged to create a federal task force to help reunite families, he’s reportedly been undecided if they’ll be allowed to return to the U.S. But the answer should be clear, advocates say.
“We think that’s only fair given what they’ve been put through,” ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt told the AP, saying that these families must be protected once here. “We will find the families but we cannot provide the families with the right to return to the United States and give legal status,” he continued. “Only the administration can do that.”
Other advocates have similarly pressed for protections for separated families. Last month, Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Chair Joaquin Castro urged the incoming administration to allow families to return to the U.S. Along with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, he last year also introduced legislation that would put families on a path to legal status.
“[T]here’s a question then, once they’re reunited, where do they go, right?” Castro told MSNBC last month. “And I believe, Sen. Blumenthal believes, and others believe, that they should be here in the United States.”
While the Trump administration was subsequently forced to pay for mental health care services for families it traumatized under the policy, ACLU advocates said the federal government can still go much further. “Gelernt added that he hopes the Biden administration will also commit to creating a fund for helping these families,” the AP continued, “and to placing future evaluations involving migrant families in the hands of child welfare experts.”
The latter is terrifyingly not the case at the moment, with border agents deciding on their own to separate families, in some cases basing their reasoning on outright lies. In one instance, agents removed a girl from her father after accusing him of faking her birth certificate. “He was not given an interpreter during his interview,” NBC News reported. But the paperwork was real, and DNA testing proved he was her dad. They weren’t reunited until the next month.
Hundreds of other children continue to remain without their parents since October’s shocking report that families ripped apart when the Trump administration was “piloting” family separation at the southern border continued to remain apart three years later. Court documents reveal that of those 666 children, parents for only a few dozen have been identified.
This week, we’ve also found out the administration has only just now shared additional contact information with advocates tasked by the court with family reunification. “Everyone’s been asking whether the Trump administration has been helping to find these families,” Gelernt told NBC News. “Not only have they not been helping, but they have been withholding this data forever.” These families need justice and accountability in addition to reunification.