Trump administration settlement will allow some migrant families second chance at asylum

Trump administration settlement will allow some migrant families second chance at asylum
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Some migrant parents and children who were separated after illegally crossing into the country will be eligible to apply for asylum under a new legal settlement.

Under the plan agreed to by the government and the plaintiffs in a lawsuit was announced by the American Civil Liberties Union late Wednesday night. The government agreed that all parents still in the United States who had asylum requests rejected after being separated from their children will now have a second chance to have their asylum request reviewed, including the opportunity to submit additional evidence and testimony.

The agreement will also allow parents and children in certain situations to remain in the country together even if they are at different points in the asylum process.

The government said it won’t return parents who have already been deported, but will address individual cases when warranted.

The settlement between the Trump administration and plaintiffs in three separate lawsuits is a major victory for immigrants who were subject to the administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy.

Under that policy, first-time adult offenders, including asylum seekers, were remanded to the Department of Justice over a misdemeanor that previous administrations had opted not to prosecute.

Any children brought across the border were separated from their parents, deemed to be “unaccompanied,” and detained by the Department of Health and Human Services in separate facilities sometimes hundreds of miles from their parents.

The policy resulted in over 2,500 family separations and a political headache for the administration. A federal judge ordered the administration reunite the families, but as of last week, more than 400 of those children remain separated and in HHS custody.

“Our government forcibly ripped children from the arms of asylum-seeking parents, and then asked them, debilitated by trauma, all by themselves, unrepresented by lawyers, to articulate complex legal claims without any support or accommodation,”  Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, legal director of the Immigrant Advocacy Program at the Legal Aid Justice Center in Virginia, said in a statement.

The Legal Aid Justice Center represents the plaintiffs in one of the cases covered by the settlement, Dora v. Sessions.

The agreement needs the approval of a federal judge, and only covers individuals represented in the three lawsuits brought against the government.

If the settlement is approved, the lawsuits will be dropped, although the judge will continue to supervise the execution of the agreement.

“This agreement would give many families a second chance at seeking asylum and leaves open the possibility for some deported parents to return to the United States,” Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU's Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a statement.

The ACLU represents the plaintiffs in one of the other class-action lawsuits covered by the settlement, Ms. L v. ICE.

“The Trump administration will never be able to erase the full damage of its family separation policy, but this agreement is an important step toward restoring and protecting the asylum rights of impacted children and parents going forward,” Gelernt said.