SETTLEMENT REACHED IN LAWSUIT OVER FAMILIES SEPARATED AT BORDER BY TRUMP-ERA POLICY | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey

By Miriam Raftery

Photo,left, courtesy of the ACLU

October 17, 2023 (San Diego) – The U.S.Justice Department has reached a settlement in a San Diego-based class action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of immigrant families separated at the international border by the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy.

The settlement is subject to a judge’s approval.

“The practice of separating families at the southwest border was shameful,” Attorney Merrick Garland said in a statement. ”This agreement will facilitate the reunification of separated families and provide them with critical services to aid in their recovery.”

Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU, said in a press release, “The ACLU has settled hundreds of lawsuits in our 103-year history, but none more important than this one. To America’s enduring shame, we tore children from the arms of their families to enact a xenophobic agenda. This settlement closes the darkest chapter of the Trump administration, but as welcomed as it is, the damage inflicted on these families will forever be tragic and irreversible.”

Under the Trump-era policy, thousands of children including babies and toddlers were ripped from their parents arms and sent to facilities thousands of miles away from their parents, the ACLU has documented. Children and parents were not told if they would ever see each other again. The Trump administration failed to track the children, so that even after a court ordered the families to be reunited, federal officials could not identify the parents of the children.

President Joe Biden issued an executive order to establish an Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families. As a result, over 750 children have been returned to their families and another 85 are in the process of being reunited. But many parents have not been found, and some are believed to have been deported or left the U.S. 

Shockingly, the task force also found that over 290 children who are U.S.citizens were illegally taken from their parents at the border.

The settlement in the class action case, Ms. L.v. Ice,  covers an estimated 4,500 to 5,000 children and parents who were separated between January 20,2017 and January 20, 2021.  Anyone who believes they are aclass member can submit acclaim to the Family Reunification Task Force at the website.

The settlement in the lawsuit requires that efforts to reunify children with parents in the U.S. must continue.  In addition, the separated families will be granted immigration relief and be allowed to stay temporarily in the U.S. They will receive free legal help with immigration and asylum court matters, as well as some medical coverage, behavioral health counseling, temporary housing and other assistance,  but not financial reparations.

In addition, the settlement prohibits the federal government from reenacting the zero-tolerance policy, which ended under the Biden administration, for the next eight years. Family separations will be prohibited except in very limited circumstances, such as medical emergencies, national security cases, if a parent has a serious criminal warrant, or if a child’s safety is at risk.

Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta concluded after yesterday’s settlement was announced,  “The separation of families at our southern border was a betrayal of our nation’s values. By providing services to these families and implementing policies to prevent future separations, today’s agreement addresses the impacts of those separations and helps ensure that nothing like this happens again.”



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