First Lady Dr. Jill Biden pledged, after her husband was sworn into office, to lead a task force to reunite child migrants separated from their families at the United States-Mexico border under Trump-era immigration, with relatives in the United States, but activists who planned to work with the First Lady’s office say she’s “backed away” and “disappeared” from the effort.
In January, just a week after President Joe Biden took the oath of office, Forbes reported that Jill Biden “will be taking part in seeing that the remaining children” separated under President Donald Trump’s immigration policies “find their families.”
“Under the Trump administration’s ‘zero-tolerance’ policy, more than 5,400 children were separated from their families after entering the U.S. without documentation,” the outlet noted. “Since then, the policy has been overturned, and lawyers have stepped in to aid in the reunification efforts. Still, though, without a consistent paper trail, those involved have been unsuccessful in reaching the remaining children’s families.”
“Now,” Forbes continued, “First Lady Dr. Jill Biden will be taking a special interest in the task at hand. As stated by the report, three sources close to the reunification planning efforts have confirmed that the First Lady, alongside her East Wing staff, will have an ‘active role’ in the process.”
Jill Biden decided on the plan after visiting a camp for asylum seekers blocked by Trump’s “remain in Mexico” policy, which required migrants to await asylum hearings outside of the United States. Biden claimed to have been “visibly shocked” by the situation and told reporters that the conditions were “heartbreaking to see.” She served food to the camp’s residents and passed out Christmas toys to the children of migrant families.
Now, though, the White House tells Politico Jill Biden has “no formal role” in any task force to reunite separated migrant children with their families, and immigration activists say Biden has “backed away” from their efforts.
“It would be enormously helpful if Dr. Biden brought her experience to bear on reuniting these families because there is a lot of work to be done and, thus far, there has been no concrete progress,” an ACLU lawyer told the outlet. “We hoped that the task force would be ready on day one and families would have already been reunited but it looks like this is going to be a slow process.”
Others say they fear the issue has become too hot, politically, for the First Lady to take an active role.
“I’m a little worried it’s deprioritized or viewed as politically sensitive,” one told Politico.
The White House told the media, simply, that the reunification task force is a Department of Homeland Security project.
“The work of the task force is being led by the Department of Homeland Security,” a spokesperson said. “As the task force is an interagency task force, with members comprised of representatives from the relevant federal government agencies, the First Lady does not have any formal role.”
In recent weeks, the Biden administration has come under increasing scrutiny over its policies toward child migrants. As of late last week, reports indicated that as many as 15,000 unaccompanied minor children were being housed in border detention facilities after being caught crossing the border, seeking asylum. Many are being held for longer than the 72-hour window for processing allowed by law, and photos that emerged earlier this week show difficult conditions within the overcrowded facilities. The photos show children packed shoulder to shoulder in small rooms, in areas delineated by plastic sheeting, with little but packaged food, plastic mattresses, and silver emergency blankets.
Dr. Jill Biden has not spoken on the so-called “child migrant crisis,” and neither her husband, President Joe Biden, nor his Vice President, Kamala Harris, have concrete plans to visit the border.