The Trump administration says it will let some parents who were separated from their kids at the border have a second chance at asylum.
In an about-face from its “zero tolerance” immigration policy, the Department of Homeland Security now says families who were denied asylum after the agency forcibly separated parents and children can pursue their cases again, which could include parents who were deported.
“The settlement importantly leaves open the possibility of some parents who were deported without their children returning to the U.S.,” said Lee Gelernt, the lead attorney on the reunification lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union. As of last week, 304 children whose parents were deported without them remain in U.S. custody. Fourteen of those children are under the age of 5.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in the Southern District of California forced the government to negotiate a solution with lawyers for immigrant children and parents. On Wednesday, the administration submitted the agreement to federal judges, who are likely to approve the plan.
Under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy this spring and summer, DHS took nearly 2,600 immigrant children away from their parents — sometimes separating families who crossed the border legally through a port of entry — and put the kids in the Health and Human Services shelter system, reclassifying them as “unaccompanied,” despite their having traveled to the U.S. with an adult.
DHS sent separated parents to immigration detention centers across the country, sometimes thousands of miles from the shelters where their children were located, with no plan to reunite families. Many parents whose children the government took away failed the crucial first hurdle to getting asylum in which an immigration official tests whether an immigrant’s fear of returning to their home country is legitimate.
Overwhelmed by grief, immigrant parents struggled to answer basic questions about their reasons for coming to the U.S. during their “credible fear” interviews, and many signed forms agreeing to be deported without their children after allegedly being coerced by immigration officials, according to parents interviewed by immigration advocates. Gelernt said some parents were deported before they received credible fear interviews. DHS did not respond to a request for comment.
Under this plan, parents and children with negative credible fear determinations will be re-interviewed. Some parents who don’t pass will be allowed to stay with their child through their own asylum process.
Cover: This Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018 photo, provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, shows a scene from a tour of South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas. (Photo: Charles Reed/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement via AP)