Biden Task Force Finds 5,600 Files That Show Families Separated

President Joe Biden’s family separation task force recently identified 5,600 files from the first half of 2017 that still need to be reviewed. A senior Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official said on April 7 that these files could hold evidence of more family separations during the Trump administration. While briefing reporters on the task force’s progress, the official said, “We found the list we had when we came in was not comprehensive and included large timeframes that had not been reviewed.”

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The DHS official also said the new files may reveal a few more families who haven’t been identified yet. The new files, dated between January 20, 2017, and July 2017, are from the Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement. The American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) lawsuit against the Trump administration over family separations didn’t include this period.

Lee Gelernt, lead attorney in the ACLU’s lawsuit and deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project deputy director, said, “We told the court we would need to go back to the government if we suspected that there may have been families separated as far back the first six months of the Trump administration.” He further stated, “We now believe there may have been separations in the first six months of the Trump administration, and we applaud the task force for agreeing to review cases during this time period. Whether the task force finds one or many additional separations, it is essential that we find every last child cruelly taken from their parents by our government.”

In mid-2018, when the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy was in force, approximately 2,800 families were separated. Previously, lawyers have said that over 1,000 other families were separated before the policy’s official implementation.

As president-elect, Joe Biden promised a “thorough investigation” of the Trump administration policy’s potential criminality and those responsible for it. The senior DHS clarified that “accountability” fell under the jurisdiction of the Justice Department and isn’t a part of the task force’s responsibilities.

The DHS official also said the Biden administration had started settlement negotiations with the ACLU. An initial report on the task force’s progress is due on June 2, 2021.