Attorneys for separated children and families have reached an agreement with the administration that would allow the government to resume deporting reunited families — but only after they get a chance to make an asylum case to stay in the US.
Parents who failed an initial asylum screening while separated will have a second shot to make their case, with their psychological state during separation factored in.
If approved by a federal judge overseeing the cases, the settlement would bring an end to some of the lawsuits, especially one that had sought to protect separated children independently of any rights of their parents. The lawyers are asking the judge to consider their proposal at their status hearing Friday.
The settlement would not end the ongoing lawsuit over the original separations and ongoing reunifications, but it would resolve one of the thorniest issues in the lawsuits: Do children have their own right to pursue asylum protections in the US?
The answer, according the proposed settlement, is yes. Children will be reunited with their parents but will be allowed to assert they are credibly fearful of returning home.
The parent also will be given a re-evaluation whether their previous rejection was previously decided.
If both parent and child fails the screening, or if the family voluntarily waives the process, the government can begin deportations.
Some 1,000 families could be affected. Earlier court filings in the case had indicated upwards of 900 parents already had deportation orders in July.
The deal also states that the government will not bring back any already-deported parents, though a select few, case-by-case exceptions may occur.
In a statement, Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project and lead attorney in the main family separations lawsuit, hailed that agreement as a breakthrough.
“The agreement leaves open the possibility that some parents deported without their children may return to the United States,” Gelernt said. “That was critical to reaching an agreement.”
The settlement only applies to the families who were separated at the border and covered by the June court decision ordering their reunification.
As this agreement was negotiated, the federal judge overseeing the case, Judge Dana Sabraw, blocked the government from deporting any of the separated or reunited parents covered by the case until the issue was resolved.