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A Second Chance for Separated Families

Mother with her Child - Family Separation
Mother with her Child - Family Separation
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September 13, 2018

The fight over the asylum rights of families who had been separated by the Trump administration took what could be a critical turn late last night. Following weeks of negotiation, parties in three lawsuits — including the ACLU’s class-action lawsuit, which first blocked the family separation policy and forced the government to reunite families — brokered an agreement that, if approved by the judge, will allow hundreds of parents to re-apply again for asylum in the U.S. after being turned down previously.

Here’s what you need to know.

What happens to parents who are in the U.S. with deportation orders?

The cases of parents who are still in the United States and who have been ordered deported will be reviewed to determine whether they have a credible fear of persecution. They will be able to consult with lawyers and present new or additional information in their asylum cases.

The settlement agreement specifically instructs that if there are discrepancies between the parent’s first asylum interview and the second review, the government should consider the psychological state that the parent was in at the time of the parent’s interview. This is critical given that many parents were originally pushed through the asylum process after their children had been forcibly taken away from them, impairing their ability to fully answer questions.

What happens to families with parents who did not pass their asylum interviews?

As a first step of the asylum process, asylum seekers have a “credible fear” screening. During the interview, an asylum officer determines whether they have a credible fear of persecution if they returned to their country of origin. Under the settlement agreement, parents who failed their credible fear screenings will still be able to stay in the U.S. if their child passes their own credible fear screening. The same is also true if a child were to not pass an asylum screening but the parent did.

What happens to parents who have already been deported?

The government has maintained that parents who have already been deported are not eligible for asylum, but the settlement may create the possibility that some deported parents will be able to return to the U.S.

What’s next?

Before going into effect, the settlement must be approved by the federal judge overseeing the three cases.

While the Trump administration will never be able to erase the full damage of its family separation policy — and there are still parents who need to be located — this agreement would constitute an important step toward restoring and protecting the asylum rights of children and parents going forward.

We will be back in court on Friday, Sept. 14.

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