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U.S. to settle lawsuit with migrant families separated under Trump, offers benefits

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The Biden administration has reached an agreement to provide support and legal benefits to migrant families separated during the Trump era while also instituting measures to prevent similar separations in the future. This initiative aims to bring closure to a longstanding court case stemming from the Trump administration’s family separation policy.*

In cooperation with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Biden administration presented a joint plan on Monday to resolve a class-action lawsuit related to the Trump-era practice of forcibly separating nearly 4,000 migrant children from their parents near the U.S.-Mexico border. The proposed settlement, which spans six years, is awaiting approval from U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, who had previously banned such separations in 2018.

Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta expressed, “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.”

**Key Provisions:**

If accepted, the 46-page settlement agreement will introduce a specialized process for separated families to seek U.S. asylum and significantly narrow the circumstances under which the government can legally separate families. Notably, future separations will no longer be justified solely by a parent’s illegal entry into the country. Separations will be reserved for rare cases, such as those involving abusive parents or individuals with serious criminal records.

Under this proposed asylum process, families separated during former President Donald Trump’s tenure will be able to apply for asylum directly to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), avoiding adversarial courtroom proceedings. USCIS will also consider the trauma endured by families during the separations when evaluating their asylum applications. Successful asylum seekers demonstrating persecution in their home country based on factors like politics or religion may receive permanent legal status in the U.S.

Families covered by the agreement will be granted access to government-funded housing benefits, legal representation, and medical and mental health services. It’s worth noting that this settlement does not include monetary compensation, which some separated families had been pursuing through federal courts.


The settlement offers separated families a meaningful opportunity to seek lawful status and establishes safeguards to prevent the reenactment of a zero tolerance separation policy by future administrations, according to Lee Gelernt, the ACLU lawyer representing these families.

**Unwinding a 5-Year-Old Policy:**

While former President Trump ended the systematic separation of migrant families more than five years ago in response to bipartisan criticism, the policy’s repercussions continue to be addressed. The question of financial restitution for affected families remains a topic of debate in federal courts as individual lawsuits proceed. The ACLU, alongside advocacy groups and the Biden administration, is actively working to locate hundreds of parents who were deported after being separated from their children.

As part of the settlement, the Biden administration has committed to ongoing efforts to locate and reunite these families, with an interagency task force reuniting around 750 families. This initiative also offers parents deported without their children the opportunity to return to the U.S., along with three-year work permits and deportation protections under humanitarian parole authority. However, it is estimated that between 500 and 1,500 migrant children separated from their parents during the Trump administration are still awaiting reunification, highlighting the challenges posed by inadequate record-keeping at the time.

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