Judge In Family Separation Case Urges Parties To Move On Proposed Settlement
A San Diego federal judge overseeing a class-action lawsuit seeking reunification of parents and their children separated at the border Friday urged the parties to get moving on proposed settlement agreement that would give parents a second chance at presenting their asylum claims, despite the possibility that some class members might object.
"This is a very detailed, well thought-out proposal," U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw said during a weekly status conference. "It seems like no stone was left unturned. We ought to move forward as quickly as possible."
Sabraw told the plaintiffs and the government to submit a joint report for preliminary approval of the settlement.
Under the proposed agreement, parents who failed an initial interview to determine if they had "credible fear" to return to their home country, but who are still in the United States, would be granted a new interview.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the class-action lawsuit earlier this year seeking reunification of parents and their children who were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border. Plaintiffs argued that parents couldn't reasonably participate in credible fear interviews as their children were being forcibly taken from them.
In the proposal, the Trump administration does not agree to bring back deported parents to the United States, but such requests — which the plaintiffs said would be rare — could be raised on a case by case basis.
Under the administration's "zero tolerance" policy, thousands of families were separated at the border during a three-month period.
Sabraw in June ordered families to be reunited, but more than 400 children remain in federal custody after being separated from their parents.
The settlement agreement would address the process to provide asylum seekers with a chance to seek the benefit. If either a parent or a child passes the credible fear interview, the family would not be subject to immediate removal from the U.S.
Deputy Assistant Attorney General Scott Stewart said the government was optimistic that all deported parents in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador could be contacted with questions about possible reunification with their children.