According to Donohoe, it was Al Otro Lado and other legal-aid and advocacy organizations that made all of the arrangements for the four families, including negotiating with the Mexican government for travel visas and planning and funding the parents’ travel to the ports of entry, as well as the children’s travel to meet them there — everything but permission to enter the United States, which was granted by Customs and Border Protection.
“When DHS says this is a ‘very complex situation’ and is a ‘situation we inherited’ — if there were political will, and if the imperative was, ‘Let’s reunite these families, they’ve suffered enough,’ they could’ve been back three months ago,” Donohoe said. “The only reason that these four parents are going to be there tomorrow and this week is because we made it happen.”
Mayorkas responded to advocates’ criticism Monday afternoon, telling NPR in an interview, “This is not about taking credit for the reunification, this is about working together to achieve it, pure and simple.” He said of Al Otro Lado, “They precede us in this effort, and we are privileged to be a part of it.”
The announcement of the reunifications came the same day Mayorkas cited progress on moving unaccompanied minors from overcrowded, ill-suited CBP holding cells to shelters under the Department of Health and Human Services, reducing their number by 88% since a high in March.
Mayorkas also said the average stay for a child in Border Patrol custody has fallen to 20 hours, below the 72-hour maximum allowed under court rulings and down from 133 hours in late March, according to the AP.
While more than 600 lone migrant kids remain in CBP custody, more than 22,000 remain in the custody of HHS, according to the latest government data.
Biden also announced Monday that he would set the annual refugee cap at 62,500, returning to a ceiling he’d originally proposed to Congress in February and had committed to publicly.
In mid-April, citing in part a sharp increase in migration to the southern border in Biden’s first months in the White House, the administration announced it would keep in place Trump’s historically low cap of 15,000 for the rest of this year. But after hours of some of the sharpest criticism yet from even the president’s allies, the White House reversed itself and said Biden would announce another refugee resettlement goal this month.
Trump’s cap “did not reflect America’s values as a nation that welcomes and supports refugees,” Biden said in a statement.
“It is important to take this action today to remove any lingering doubt in the minds of refugees around the world who have suffered so much,” he said, “and who are anxiously waiting for their new lives to begin.”©2021 Los Angeles Times. Visit at latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.