Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced Sunday that four migrant families separated at the border in late 2017 will be reunited this week, the first fruits of President Biden's Family Reunification Task Force. The first two reunions took place Tuesday — a Honduran mother surprising her two sons in Philadelphia after more than three years of separation and a Mexican mother reunited with her son in California after nearly four years. ABC News documented the emotional reunions on Wednesday's World News Tonight.
Former President Donald Trump enacted an official policy of separating children from their parents at the border from April to June 2018, but it later emerged that the Trump administration had been regularly separating families for much of 2017. A federal judge ordered the Trump administration to reunite the families by August 2018, and hundreds of parents were rejoined with their children, but many more had been deported with little or no information on how to contact them.
Of the more than 5,500 children separated from the parents under Trump, more than 1,000 are still separated, the Biden administration estimates. Lawyers and advocacy groups working to reunited the families say 465 parents have not been located.
It isn't clear what will happen to the parents reunited with their children. The Biden administration is allowing them into the U.S. on humanitarian parole while longer-term solutions are explored. The administration's Family Reunification Task Force worked with lawyers and advocates to select 36 families for a trial run, meant to pave the way for hundreds more reunifications.
Sandra Ortiz, separated from her son Bryan Chavez in October 2017, learned last week that she would be flown to the San Ysidro port of entry to be reunited with her son. They had fled to the U.S. from Michoacán after cartels murdered Ortiz's husband, dismembered their teenage neighbor, and began recruiting Chavez, The Washington Post reports. After they requested asylum at the San Ysidro border crossing, "they told me to say goodbye to my son, that I wouldn't see him again," Ortiz says. "And then they took him away." Ortiz was detained for more than a month, told her son would be put up for adoption, then deported. Chavez has been living with relatives in California.