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US Reaches Agreement in Family Separation Cases

Families Would Be Able to Try Again to Seek Asylum in the US

A Mission Police Dept. officer (L), and a U.S. Border Patrol agent watch over a group of Central American asylum seekers before taking them into custody on June 12, 2018 near McAllen, Texas. © 2018 John Moore/Getty Images
After the Trump administration was slammed with lawsuits for separating migrant children and parents at the border, the US government has agreed to allow many of these parents, whose asylum claims were rejected, to reapply.

It’s the official beginning of recognizing the ways this policy harmed parents and children.

In the hours and days after families were forcibly separated, immigration officials informed some traumatized parents that they would have to undergo interviews for the first step in the US asylum process.

Ariel P., from Guatemala, told me his interview took place after he had not seen or spoken to his son in over 20 days and did not even know where he was. “All I could think about was how he was and when I would see him again. Every night when I went to sleep, I would think about where he was sleeping.. . . . It was impossible for me to focus on anything else,” he said.

The other separated parents I interviewed echoed these comments.

It’s not surprising that many of the parents who went through these interviews weren’t able to make their case for asylum, even when they had fled rape, other torture, or death threats. This settlement recognizes, and tries to remedy, this problem – for some.

But the proposed settlement doesn’t correct all the harm inflicted on all families.

For example, the settlement generally excludes deported parents who were unfairly blocked from an asylum interview before deportation, or who believed immigration officials’ lies that accepting deportation was the key to seeing their children again. Human Rights Watch interviewed deported parents in Honduras and El Salvador who were denied an initial asylum interview, which is not adequately remedied in the proposal.

And the proposed settlement doesn’t address the lasting harm of family separation on parents and children (many of whom still languish in detention centers); or the government’s latest attempts to remove time limits on family immigration detention, despite the “high risk of harm” to children; or the US Attorney General’s effort to impede people from making lawful asylum claims.

If accepted by the court, the agreement would be a vindication for the parents and children still in the United States who this policy harmed. It’s a significant step towards accountability for families who came to the United States seeking safety and opportunity and found new trauma instead.

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