Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced Monday that the Biden administration will explore "lawful pathways" to allow migrant families separated under the Trump administration to reunite in the U.S.
Why it matters: Biden has pledged to reunite the hundreds of families still separated as a result of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy, and signed an executive order last month creating a family separation task force chaired by Mayorkas.
- Mayorkas said at a press briefing that 105 families have been recently reunited, and that the federal government is "dedicating resources full-time" to reunion efforts.
- He added that the administration is also "working closely" with legal counsel for the separated families, the countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, non-governmental organizations, and soon the private sector.
The big picture: Mayorkas tore into the Trump administration for its past immigration policies, calling the family separations "the most powerful and heartbreaking example of the cruelty that preceded" the Biden presidency and claiming that Trump "gutted" the immigration system.
- The secretary cautioned that "it takes time to rebuild an entire system and to process individuals at the border," especially during a pandemic.
- He urged prospective migrants "to wait" before coming to the U.S. in order to avoid adding to immigration backlogs, and noted that the Biden administration is "obligated" to continue using a Trump-era public health program to expel migrants due to COVID-19.
- Mayorkas also insisted that there's not a crisis at the border, instead calling it "a challenge at the border that we are managing.”
What to watch: Mayorkas, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other White House officials will be on President Biden's call this afternoon with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his top aides.