Families forcibly separated at the southern border by the previous administration have already experienced trauma on top of trauma. Being ripped apart without so much as a chance to say goodbye. The months—often years—of separation. The danger that caused them to flee their homes in the first place.
While some families have been reunited in recent months under the Biden administration, a number of them have had to deal with yet another added, completely unnecessary trauma. “So far, families from the first group of reunifications have reported homelessness shortly after entering the country, according to the documents,” BuzzFeed News reports.
Some of the reasoning appears to be financial challenges stemming from work permit waits and other factors. Earlier this summer, The New York Times reported how work permit waits for certain visa applicants had stretched out to as long as five years due to government backlogs. While BuzzFeed News reports that reunited families are on a speedier process, it could still be months of waiting.
Lisy is among those waiting, BuzzFeed News reports. She was reunited with her two boys last month after four years of separation. But the family they’re staying with have asked her to begin contributing to rent soon, and she said she has no clue how she’ll be able to help. She called her current situation “another trauma because I’m with them and I can’t get them the things they need. I have no job. I have nothing to offer.”
An administration official told BuzzFeed News its family reunification task force “is working with the private sector to provide families we reunify, who were separated under the Trump Administration’s ‘Zero Tolerance’ policy, with housing when needed.” The report said that while the task force is also seeking join ways to provide families with support including direct aid, “it’s unclear, according to the documents, whether the government has the authority to fund the process.”
Respectfully, the Biden administration needs to figure this the fuck out. While this was an immigration policy implemented and carried out by the prior administration, we have a moral obligation to do right by these families.
Going even further, compensation to separated families should include a pathway to citizenship, advocates and leading Democrats have argued. Unfortunately, there’s been no real movement in Congress since the introduction of the Families Belong Together Act. The previous administration was forced to pay for mental health care services for separated families, with outreach workers reaching about 1,000 families since. Some parents have also gone to court to attempt to seek damages from the federal government.
Speaking to Buzzfeed News, Carol Anne Donohoe, managing attorney for the legal aid organization Al Otro Lado’s Family Reunification Project, sums it up bluntly: “In the meantime, these families have to figure out how to provide for themselves. … The public sees these parents and children hugging at the airport on the news and have no idea what comes after that,” she said.
“The U.S. government must provide aid for the families and access to mental health and other critical support services needed to begin healing,” Kids In Need of Defense tweeted in response to the report. “Victims of family separation deserve the resources and support they need to recover from trauma and live safely in their communities,” Families Belong Together tweeted. “Congress has yet to pass the #FamiliesBelongTogether Act that would ensure they receive the healing they need.”
“I’m very grateful for being allowed into the country and being reunited with my sons,” Lisy told BuzzFeed News. “But as much as it pains me to ask, I need help.”
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