Attorneys for the thousands of families who have split apart at the southern border during a crackdown by the Trump administration recently reached an agreement with the federal government that allows the migrants to stay in the country and submit an asylum application, setting them on the path to gainful permanent residence.
The settlement was reached after years of discussions as part of a class-action lawsuit to redress the pain caused by family separations that occurred in 2017 and 2018. The deal was submitted on Monday in federal court in San Diego.
Before the final settlement was finalized, a senior Department of Justice official, speaking under the condition of anonymity, stated that the fact that someone accesses the country illegally is not a justification for further separations. Future separations will only be allowed if someone has committed a significant felony violation, he continued, and a simple immigration offense does not meet this requirement.
After a hearing, possibly in December, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, a Republican appointment who ruled the separations illegal in 2018 and oversaw family reunifications, will decide whether to approve the settlement.
The agreement would also provide specific services to support families who were split apart at the border during the previous government, including three more years of mental health therapy and immigration legal aid. The settlement excludes financial compensation, which some families are requesting in independent claims.
According to government statistics, border authorities removed more than 2,800 children from their parents as a result of Trump’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy. More than 1,000 kids had been taken away from their families before Trump’s order took effect in 2018 according to later findings by authorities.
Both liberal and conservative critics of the policy expressed outrage, which sparked demonstrations around the country.
Alejandro Mayorkas, the secretary of homeland security, stated to The Associated Press that it was their intention to do everything within their power to prevent a recurrence of the past’s brutality. In order to enhance that effort, he said, they established processes through this settlement agreement.
Many were separated from their parents for an extended period of time or were never reunited with them due to U.S. authorities’ flawed tracking mechanisms. Trump subsequently changed his mind in 2018 in the face of fierce resistance, just days earlier a judge banned the practice following an ACLU complaint. Earlier this year, during a CNN town hall, Trump made no mention of separating families.
A senior government official informed reporters on Monday that about three-quarters of the divided families have either been reunited or have received the information they require to start the reunification process.
According to a statement from the attorney general, Merrick B. Garland, this deal will make it easier for families to reunite and will give them access to vital resources that will help them heal.
Families that were previously turned down for asylum will be permitted to reapply, and the government will advise asylum authorities to consider the anguish brought on by the compelled separations. Families that are successful in their asylum cases—which are normally decided after several years—will be qualified for green cards and eventually, citizenship in the United States.
The zero-tolerance policy was implemented during the course of a tumultuous few weeks in May and June 2018, but subsequent inquiries revealed that families were split up during Trump’s presidency. The proposed settlement, which was submitted on Monday, would involve his entire presidency.
About 40 other lawsuits and hundreds of administrative declared that some families have brought against the federal government in an effort to receive compensation for their suffering are unrelated to the San Diego action. After the number was revealed to the media in 2021 and opponents claimed that families shouldn’t be compensated for breaking the law, negotiations that would have given parents and children the amount of $450,000 each to resolve those cases collapsed.
Officials About Separated Families
According to officials, the task force has found separated families after searching through hundreds of government data, reuniting approximately 750 youngsters with their families, and identifying an additional 85 children who are currently in the process of doing so. Nearly 290 US citizen children who have been separated from their parents have also been identified by the task force, according to officials.
On Monday, General Merrick Garland added his voice to others who condemned the practice of severing family ties at the southwest border.