Religion-based teams cheer and share the hopes of Biden’s Household Reunification Process Power
(RNS) – Faith-based organizations celebrate the creation of a task force to reunite separated children with their families.
The same organizations have been involved in caring for children separated from their parents on the United States-Mexico border, as part of the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy.
RELATED: Faith Agencies Open Doors to Children Separated at the Border
President Joe Biden issued an executive order on Tuesday (February 2) creating the task force, one of several immigration measures he signed that afternoon.
“As my grandfather would say, by the grace of God and the goodwill of the neighbors, we will reunite these children and restore our reputation as a haven for those in need,” said Biden as he signed the orders at his desk in the oval office.
The newly created task force will “work across the US administration with key stakeholders and affected families, as well as partners across the hemisphere, to find parents and children who will be separated from the Trump administration,” according to a written statement of the White House.
In a written statement, President and CEO of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, called it “a monumental first step towards answering the compelling question of how we can get these families back to health”.
According to LIRS, LIRS was one of two faith-based organizations that helped the government reunite more than 1,100 families in about five weeks at the height of the 2018 family separation crisis. The other was the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
According to a joint report that they published in October 2018, the two did this work on a voluntary basis – “on a non-profit basis”.
Both organizations have been helping the government care for unaccompanied immigrant children for years, even before former President Donald Trump’s policy – even though LIRS told Religious Intelligence during the crisis that it has never seen so many unaccompanied or so young immigrant children at once have .
While LIRS and the USCCB reunited all of the children in their care with family members, attorneys still couldn’t reach the parents of 666 children who were separated from their families, according to NBC News.
“Our child care experts saw both the irreparable harm of separation and the unbridled joy of reuniting during our work that brought more than 1,100 children together with their parents. We hope and pray to see once again the relief and comfort of 600 more reunions that should have taken place years ago, ”said Vignarajah.
“This endeavor will take hard work, but a high-profile Interagency Task Force shows the Biden government’s commitment to correcting this tremendous injustice.”
That work is said to include recommendations to the president and federal agencies on what steps they can take to reunite families and prevent such tragedies from occurring again.
According to Timothy Young, a spokesman for the organization, LIRS does not expect to be part of this task force.
Bethany’s director of government affairs, Nathan Bult, said one of its subsidiaries, Bethany Christian Services, was part of previous discussions with the Biden transition team. Those conversations included the importance of – and Bethany’s support for – family reunification, Bult said.
One thing the Biden government can do to prevent this from happening again is hiring social workers for child protection at the border, he said.
Bethany also hopes the Biden administration will review the legal status of these families, including the type of legal representation and case management services the organization provided to some during the family separation crisis, he said.
“Getting these families back to health is not just about reuniting families or making deportation easier, but also about correcting the injustice and making sure they can start a new life on the right foot,” said Bult .
Ashley Feasley, Director of Policy at USCCB’s Migration Refugee Services, added psychiatric services to that wish list.
“These people have suffered severe trauma – adults and children alike. We’re really very confident to see legal services, social services, and mental health services to make sure they are able to handle a lot of it, ”said Feasley.
Feasley also hopes the task force will look into what happened and put systems in place to prevent unnecessary separation for a child’s health and well-being, she said. She hopes to partner with organizations in the US and Central America that are working to find the families of these children.
RELATED: Biden DHS Candidate Has A “Refreshing” Meeting With Faith Groups About Immigration, Refugees
And she hopes this will provide resources like organizations like the USCCB that did this work without federal funding.
“We welcome the establishment of a task force on family separation, especially because there are still families that are separated and for those families that have been reunited, the harm and trauma remains and remains,” she said.
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