Trump Administration Gives Separated Families Second Chance To Apply For Asylum

Will Racke | Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter

The Trump administration has agreed to let many of the illegal immigrant families separated under its “zero tolerance” policy this summer continue the asylum process, even if their claims had already been denied.

In a settlement reached late Wednesday with the plaintiffs of three lawsuits, the Department of Justice agreed to re-open some of the families’ closed asylum cases and allow parents whose claims had been rejected to stay in the U.S. with children who are pursuing separate claims.

The agreement covers three lawsuits brought by migrant families and civil rights groups in connection with the Trump administration’s now-rescinded “zero tolerance” border enforcement policy. Pursuant to that policy, more than 2,000 migrant families arrested while crossing the southwest border illegally were separated while the adults were prosecuted for unlawful entry. (RELATED: Trump Signs Executive Order To Stop Family Separation)

Two of the lawsuits — Ms. L. v. ICE and M-M-M- v. ICE — allege the government’s policy violated both federal asylum law and the due process rights of migrant families. The other suit, Dora v. Sessions, claim that some migrant parents failed their credible fear interviews because they were too distraught over the separations to effectively answer asylum officers’ questions.

Wednesday’s settlement still has to be approved by Judge Dana Sabraw, who is overseeing the three lawsuits. If approved, it would allow potentially hundreds of families to remain in the U.S. together while their asylum claims are adjudicated in immigration court, according to the ACLU, which is representing the plaintiffs in Ms. L. v. ICE and M-M-M- v. ICE.

“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 Thursday. “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.”

Under the agreement, parents who had lost their asylum cases will be granted another review to determine if they have a credible fear of persecution in their home countries. Those who fail the reassessment will still be allowed to stay in the U.S. if their children pass separate screenings.

Parents who weren’t eligible to apply for asylum due to a previous deportation will also be allowed to stay if their children are pursuing their own asylum cases.

As for separated parents who have already been deported, the settlement provides lawyers for the plaintiffs an opportunity to present further evidence of persecution to the government, which could allow the parents to join their children in the U.S. during the asylum process.

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