Court Approves Historic Settlement in ACLU’s Family Separation Lawsuit   

December 8, 2023 5:00 pm

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States

SAN DIEGO — A federal court has approved a historic settlement involving the American Civil Liberties Union’s years-long lawsuit on behalf of thousands of traumatized children and parents who were forcibly torn from each other under the Trump administration’s illegal zero-tolerance practice of separating families at the border.

The settlement was first announced in October, noting pending approval from the court. During today’s hearing in San Diego, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw verbally granted that approval from the bench, with the settlement to take effect Monday, Dec. 11. The judge also cited a recent statement from the ACLU that noted that while it has settled hundreds of lawsuits in its 103-year history, none has been more important than this one.

Family separation marked one of the most shocking and high-profile issues of the Trump-era. The ACLU challenged family separation in Ms. L v. ICE and won a nationwide injunction in 2018 that ended the practice. The ACLU and its partners continue to work to reunify families.

Details of the settlement include:

  • An estimated 4,500-5,000 children and their parents are covered under this settlement.
  • The government will continue to identify families that were separated, fund their reunification in the U.S., and provide a pathway for them to seek asylum here.
  • Families will have access to benefits to get them on their feet, such as work authorization, housing and legal assistance, and medical services.
  • The government is barred from reenacting the zero-tolerance policy over the next eight years.

Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project and lead attorney in the lawsuit, had this reaction to today’s court action:

“This settlement is a critical step toward closing one of the darkest chapters of the Trump administration. Babies and toddlers were literally ripped from their parents’ arms under this horrific practice. Thousands of families were torn apart.

“While this settlement alone can’t fix the unfathomable damage done to these children, it does provide hope and support that didn’t exist before. But there remains enormous work ahead to implement this settlement, including reuniting the hundreds of children who are still separated from their loved ones after all these years.

“No family should be forced to go through this nightmare and tragedy ever again.”

Ms. L v. ICE hearing transcript from Dec. 8, 2023



Sign up to be the first to hear about how to take action.

Learn More About the Issues in This Press Release