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Refugee advocate to lead task force to reunite separated families: sources

WASHINGTON — The White House is expected to select Michelle Brané of the Women’s Refugee Commission as the executive director of the task force to reunite migrant families separated by the Trump administration, three sources familiar with the decision tell NBC News.

The selection of Brané, director of migrant rights and justice programs at the Women’s Refugee Commission, is welcome news to the immigration advocate community, as most of the task force is made of government officials.

“If selected, Michelle would be a fantastic choice. She would bring deep expertise on the issues and the perfect mixture of passion and common sense,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.

The Women’s Refugee Committee is currently part of the steering committee tasked by a federal judge with finding and reuniting more than 600 migrant children with their parents. The families were separated under the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy in 2018 and in pilot programs prior to the official and short-lived imposition of the policy. Nearly two-thirds of the parents have been deported, lawyers estimate.

As executive director, Brané will oversee the inter-agency task force’s day-to-day operations as it seeks to find and reunite the children and parents, according to another source familiar with the role.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas will serve as chair of the task force, but since he also runs DHS, Brané’s role will be “essential to the success of the task force,” the person familiar with the executive director role said.

“Michelle Brané is widely recognized as a leading expert on protection of at risk children and families displaced by violence and persecution in Central America. I can’t imagine anyone else who would be better for the job of leading the effort to right the wrongs inflicted on families separated at the border by the Trump administration,” said Wendy Young, president of Kids in Need of Defense, which provides legal and advocacy services to immigrant children and has worked to reunite the separated families.

Brané and the Women’s Refugee Commission declined to comment. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.


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