The US will help migrant families separated under Trump policies with legal status

US will help migrant families

The United States will offer migrant families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border under President Donald Trump temporary legal status and other benefits while prohibiting similar separations in the future, according to a settlement agreement presented Monday.

The agreement currently applies to about 3,900 children separated from their parents during Trump’s administration (2017-2021), according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which represents families that were divided into a lawsuit first filed in 2018.

An estimated 500 to 1,000 children remain separated and the number covered by the settlement is likely to expand, the ACLU said.

The pledge is part of an ongoing effort by Democratic President Joe Biden’s administration to reunite families divided under Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy instituted in 2018, which called for prosecution of anyone who crossed the border illegally.

Government watchdogs and immigration advocates have found that separations began before and continued after the policy officially began.

The deal will be subject to approval by a U.S. district judge. Trump, the favorite to become the Republican presidential candidate in 2024, has criticized Biden’s management of border security and has promised to pursue hardline immigration policies if he is re-elected.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the agreement proposed Monday showed the Biden administration’s commitment to family reunification and praised the collaboration with advocacy organizations “in condemning the cruelty of the past.

The agreement allows families subjected to Trump-era separations to apply for temporary legal status for three years and a work permit, as well as file an asylum application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, according to court documents.

Additionally, it will prohibit the government from enforcing any policy that leads to widespread separations for eight years but allows exceptions for reasons of national security, criminal detention orders, medical emergencies or if a child’s safety is in danger.

As part of the agreement, which covers medical services, the separated families will have access to temporary housing assistance for a year, according to court documents. Reuters reported in 2022 that many reunified families were facing housing insecurity.

ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt called the settlement “ a critical step to help thousands of families.”

The Biden Administration broke off talks in 2021 for a collective agreement that would have provided monetary compensation to separated families. More than 750 children have been reunited with their families thanks to efforts led by a task force under the current administration.