Washington, DC – One year ago today, the Biden Administration created the Family Reunification Task Force to find and reunify parents still separated from their children under the Trump Administration’s Zero Tolerance policy. Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) has been at the forefront of reuniting families and helping separated children find a path to safety since the first days of the crisis.
“The previous Administration created a crisis of unspeakable magnitude when it separated more than 5,400 children from their families at the border without any systems in place to keep track of the children after separation,” said KIND President Wendy Young. “The cruel reality is that some of these families may never see each other again. For the past year, KIND has been committed to supporting the Family Reunification Task Force by helping to find families and, once they are located, connecting them with resources to help them live together in safety.”
In recent months, together with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), supported by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, KIND launched a help desk to find and serve families who have yet to be reunited. Through this effort, KIND answers separated parents’ questions regarding family reunification in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and several Guatemalan Indigenous languages. If KIND cannot reach a family, it works with partner Justice in Motion, which searches village-by-village in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico to find families.
Between September 2021 through late January 2022, KIND contacted 422 families and registered 337 on the Task Force’s website Together.gov. KIND will be conducting outreach to hundreds more in the months to come.
“Together with the Task Force, these efforts are an essential first step to reunifying these families and ensuring the lasting effects of their separation are addressed,” Young said. “Families also need attorneys and stable lawful status so they can live free from the fear of ever being separated again.”
KIND has helped more than 1,500 individuals affected by family separation since 2017. We have worked alongside families and fought for the rights of hundreds of children and families in immigration court. KIND has represented hundreds of separated children in their immigration proceedings.
“We cannot undo the wrongs of the past, but we must commit to making sure that this travesty is never repeated,” Young added. “The Administration must take concrete steps to prevent a similar humanitarian catastrophe from happening again in the future.”
To ensure children are not taken from their caregivers, KIND urges the Biden Administration to:
- Create clear and rigorous guidelines that prioritize keeping families together, except in specific cases where a child welfare expert determines a child may be in danger.
- Ensure that qualified child welfare professionals are present at the border and are involved in all processing of children and families.
- Establish accessible and transparent procedures for challenging family separation decisions that allow for rapid resolution of contested cases.
- Carefully document any instances of family separation and enhance record keeping to ensure that children and their families can be quickly reunified and that separated children are not lost in the system.
Media Contact: Megan McKenna, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-631-9990