Where’s Jill? There’s a crisis on the border that involves unaccompanied minors crossing into the United States, leaving their families behind. Jill Biden assured us that she’d get right on that after Joe Biden was inaugurated. She said she would lead a task force to reunite the children being held by the bad Orange Man’s administration with family members in the United States. It’s been more than 60 days since the Bidens moved into the White House and there is no word of such an effort being made by the First Lady.
Where are all the heartwarming stories and pictures of family reunions? Think of the publicity that Jill Biden could receive for her noble work – for the children, of course. There is no doubt that the potential for stories to tug on the heartstrings of border hawks was on her mind as she randomly announced to a group of young Latinos during a virtual call that she’d be the person in charge of leading a task force for family reunification. Her chief of staff would be working on it, too, she said. This lead to some confusion – would Jill lead the task force or monitor it? There has been radio silence since so we can only assume that the announcement was just a farce being promoted for good headlines to benefit her and her husband’s administration. See, Jill cares. She’s not like that horrible Trump and his wife who was complicit in putting kids in cages.
Well, that may have been her motive but so far she’s dead in the water with that idea, thanks to her husband completely botching the situation on the southern border. With breathtaking speed, Joe Biden’s executive actions and words have ramped up the flood of migrants landing on the border in hopes of sneaking into the United States or appearing at a border crossing with a plea for asylum. Politico now reports that the first lady’s office denies she is involved in such an effort. As a matter of fact, the Biden administration has failed in reuniting those families at all. Now the activists and legal community she was playing to are asking questions about her commitment.
The remark was followed by a series of headlines proclaiming that Biden herself would monitor or lead a task force to help the families separated under President Donald Trump. Some articles even said Biden would reunite the children.
None of that has happened.
First lady Jill Biden actually has “no formal role” in the effort, according to her office. Among lawyers and advocates helping the families, her lack of involvement reinforces a broader concern about the slow pace of reunification efforts under Biden. The administration has yet to locate additional parents or announce a specific plan to unite families, as staffers instead struggle to address another problem: a surge of unaccompanied children at the border.
You may remember that during the presidential campaign, Jill traveled across the border into Mexico to visit migrant camps set up for those seeking to apply for asylum. Trump and the Mexican government put a Remain-in-Mexico agreement in place to ease the flow of migrants that were overwhelming border patrol and ICE personnel, as well as the resources of border communities. Jill brought food and toys and helped serve meals. It was good public relations for the Biden campaign. Jill presents herself as a person with great empathy, especially for children. Joe Biden is often described as an empathetic president. It’s how they decided to counter the Trump administration, one Democrats and open border leftists criticized for a heartless approach to border security, even during a pandemic. Activists even think Jill has some kind of previous experience that can help their cause. Now they are realizing it was likely all a load of campaign trail malarkey.
“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,” said Lee Gelernt, the American Civil Liberties Union’s lead lawyer in a family separation lawsuit against the previous administration. “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.”
Some of the advocates and lawyers for migrant families are concerned that Jill Biden backed away from the issue because the administration is facing a torrent of criticism from both the right and the left on the border problems.
“I’m a little worried it’s deprioritized or viewed as politically sensitive,” said one advocate involved in the effort.
It’s unclear what experience exactly is being referenced. She’s a community college professor and a career teacher, beholden to teachers’ unions. The crisis at the border is a hot-button issue that can tank her husband’s agenda and throw control of congress to Republicans in the mid-term elections so she has probably quickly learned she has to tread lightly here. Now Jill’s office claims she never played a leading role in reunification and the Department of Homeland Security has the lead in those efforts. Those denials are bungling up the message as much as Joe’s messaging on the border crisis.
LaRosa later sent an additional comment, emphasizing that “The First Lady believes that the children taken from their parents need to be reunified with their families as soon as possible. Dr. Biden will continue to support the work of the Task Force,” and “her Chief of Staff and Assistant to the President, Ambassador Julissa Reynoso, is involved in this issue and has been in regular contact with the Executive Director of the Taskforce.”
But others in the administration have highlighted the first lady and her staff’s involvement in the issue. At a White House press briefing March 1, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas raised expectations by crediting Biden for pushing staff to act on family separations.
“The first lady has driven us to action through her personal commitment to this moral imperative,” he said. “And that moral imperative is to reunite the families and restore them to the fullest capacity that we, as the United States government, can do.”
The Biden administration put together a task force on family reunification in February but little work has been seen from it. Of the estimated 1,000 children separated during the Trump administration’s policies and remain separated 2 years later, only about 105 families have been reunited. The Biden administration is not credited with any of those reunions, according to the lawyers involved. The task force’s first report to Biden is due within 120 days of its inception.
Open borders advocates want deported parents allowed back into the U.S. with legal status. They also are pushing for restitution for the families as well as medical care and mental health service benefits. Their illegal activities should be rewarded, apparently. During the Trump administration, all four former first ladies – Rosalynn Carter, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, and Michelle Obama – issued a joint statement criticizing Trump’s policies. Oddly, they are silent now and Jill is missing in action. Imagine that.