On October 16, the United States government reached a settlement in Ms. L., et al. v. ICE, et al., a class action lawsuit filed in 2018 under the administration of former president Donald Trump and is seeking injunctive relief relating to the separation of parents and children at the U.S.-Mexico border. The proposed settlement agreement is subject to final approval by the district court after notice to the class and providing an opportunity to object.
“Under the proposed settlement, new standards will be established to limit family separations in the future,” reads the statement. “The settlement provides for continued family reunifications, immigration relief, and certain support services for separated families, including behavioral health services, targeted legal support related to immigration claims, limited housing assistance, and certain medical coverage.”
The settlement does not provide payment of monetary damages.
“Those who believe they are class members may submit claims of class membership to the Family Reunification Task Force through the Together.gov website,” the statement continued.
A plaintiff identified as “Ms. L” filed a complaint in the Southern District of California on February 26, 2018, alleging she had been unlawfully separated from her child. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) later filed an amended complaint to add class action claims to contend that the separation of “putative class member parents” from their children violated procedural and substantive due process, as well as the asylum statute.
“Today’s agreement reflects the Biden-Harris Administration’s unwavering commitment to reunify families who suffered because of the prior Administration’s cruel and inhumane policy, and our steadfast adherence to our nation’s most dearly held values,” said DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. “This agreement helps family members reunify with their loved ones in the United States and receive services to help them address the trauma they have suffered.”
The district court certified a class of separated parents on June 26, 2018, and issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting future separations except in certain specified circumstances. The court also required the immediate reunification of families previously separated by the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy.
“Since that time, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have worked with Plaintiffs to identify class members and their children, developed plans for reunification, and reunified class members with their children,” read the statement.
Then, on January 26, 2021, the Department of Justice rescinded the department’s 2018 zero-tolerance policy for offenses under 8 U.S.C. § 1325(a). In February 2021, President Joe Biden issued an Executive Order establishing the Interagency Task Force on the Reunification Families comprised of representatives from various federal agencies, including DOJ, DHS, and HHS.
“The parties have worked extensively to reunify families in accordance with the Executive Order and subsequent orders from the district court,” the statement continued. “The Task Force has searched through thousands of government records to identify separated families and has thus far reunited more than 750 children with their families and has identified 85 additional children who are currently in the process of being reunited with their families.”
It’s worth noting that the task force has identified more than 290 U.S. citizen children who were separated from their parents during the relevant time frame. The task force is also working to confirm that they have been reunified with their families and will offer them services to support their reunification.
“We appreciate the work of our federal partners in the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in helping make this agreement possible,” continued Secretary Mayorkas. “We also recognize the important work of non-governmental organizations that have stood by the families and continue to support their reunification. Our partnership is unified in condemning the cruelty of the past. The Department of Homeland Security has taken steps to ensure that the prior practice of separating families does not happen again, and we are continuing the work of reuniting children with their parents.”
Read the Full Settlement Below
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