Immigration Law

Asylum-seekers whose children were taken away may get another chance under DOJ settlement

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The federal government has agreed to settle three lawsuits over the Trump administration’s policy of separating families seeking asylum in the United States.

Vox, the Washington Post and NBC have stories.

Under the agreement reached Wednesday in federal court in San Diego, the government will reassess the asylum claims of families included in the lawsuits Ms. L v. ICE; Dora v. Sessions; and MMM v. Sessions.

The first two lawsuits allege that the government violated parents’ rights by taking their children and Dora also argues that the government set up parents for failure by requiring them to go through legal proceedings while they were traumatized by having their children taken away. MMM alleges that children’s rights were also violated by family separations.

Under the settlement, parents who have been ordered deported but are still in the United States will be given a second credible fear interview to establish whether they have a viable asylum claim. Those who fail it, or are not eligible under the law, may still be able to pursue asylum with their children, if the children pass a separate credible fear interview. Children who fail will also be permitted to pursue asylum along with parents who were successful.

Parents who have been deported will also get a second chance to make their claims. The settlement says plaintiffs in the three lawsuits have 30 days to present the federal government with the case of any parent they believe should be returned and given a second chance to make a legal claim. Deported parents also have the right under the settlement to attend their children’s interviews via telephone.

The language of the settlement suggests that it settles Dora completely and MMM and Ms. L partially. Attorney Lee Gelernt of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project confirmed that as to Ms. L via email, saying it will not settle that case’s core claims, which involve family reunification. The Arizona Republic reported Thursday that 416 children remain separated from their parents and in federal custody.

The Post says U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw of the Southern District of California, who is overseeing both Ms. L and MMM, must still approve the agreement. If he does, he will supervise its implementation.

In a statement, Muslim Advocates—the public interest organization that represents the plaintiffs in Dora—hailed the settlement.

“The parents in these lawsuits all came to the United States fleeing unspeakable violence,” said senior staff attorney Sirine Shebaya. “With this agreement, they will finally have a real chance to be heard and to secure safety and stability for themselves and their families.”

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