Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas talks to reporters during the daily press briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on Monday. Pool Photo by Oliver Contreras/UPI | License Photo
March 1 (UPI) -- The Biden administration will allow migrant families separated under the Trump administration to reunite in the United States, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said Monday.
Speaking during a news conference, Mayorkas called the separation of children from their parents at the Mexican border "the most powerful and heartbreaking example of the cruelty that preceded this administration."
"The first lady has driven us to action through her personal commitment to this moral imperative, and that moral imperative is to reunite the families," Mayorkas said.
Mayorkas, who is chair of the family separation task force established last month by executive order, said families will be given the option of reuniting in their country of origin or in the United States.
"If 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," Mayorkas said.
The administration is working with lawyers representing the separated families along with nongovernmental organizations, the nations of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, and the private sector in what he called an "all-of-society effort to do what is right."
So far, about 105 families have been reunited.
Michelle Brané was named as executive director of the family separation task force.
Mayorkas said the administration also is working to process migrants from Central America who were forced to remain in Mexico while seeking entry into the United States, including increasing the number of ports where migrants are processed and creating a virtual process for migrants to apply for relief.
These efforts are being done along with measures to protect front-line workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, including Operation VOW (Vaccinate Our Workforce), which completed vaccination of 20% of front-line personnel in February.
Mayorkas urged those considering making the journey to the border to wait while the immigration system is rebuilt and while COVID-19 travel restrictions remain in place.
The administration is "working around the clock to replace the cruelty of the past administration with an orderly, humane and safe immigration process. It is hard and it will take time. But rest assured we are going to get it done. ...
"Entire systems are not rebuilt in a day or in a few weeks. To put it succinctly, the prior administration dismantled our nation's immigration system in its entirety."