Settlement with Families Separated at the Border a Critical First Step

SILVER SPRING, Md. — HIAS welcomes the approval of the federal government’s settlement with thousands of families who were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border under the Trump administration in 2017 and 2018. The agreement approved by the United States District Court for the Southern District of California in San Diego covers an estimated 4,500-5,000 children and their parents. As part of the settlement, families would receive support throughout the asylum process — including medical and mental health support, trauma-informed interpretation services, and having their cases adjudicated by specially-trained asylum officers.

“HIAS is relieved that the nation can finally turn the page on this shameful chapter in our history, with the conclusion of negotiations in this class-action lawsuit aimed at redressing the terrible harm that these families suffered,” said HIAS President and CEO Mark Hetfield. “While it would be impossible to completely repair the damage done to these families, providing support through the asylum system is a start. We are pleased that the federal government is acknowledging those harms.”

The settlement provides benefits to victims of the family separation policy so that they can remain in the U.S. and apply for asylum; those who are successful will be on a path to permanent residency and citizenship. In addition, families whose asylum claims were previously denied under the policy will now be allowed to reapply.

“These families will never fully heal, and too many still have not been able to reconnect with their loved ones from whom they were so cruelly pulled apart,” Hetfield said. “This settlement nonetheless represents a crucial step toward restoring American values and compliance with U.S. and international human rights law, with the federal government committing to continue to identify families that were separated, and to not pursue similar policies in the future.”

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