Judge Sabraw Approves Settlement to Give Family Separation Victims Another Chance at Asylum

Today, a federal judge issued a final approval of the settlement agreement reached between the government and plaintiffs in Dora v. Sessions, Ms. L v. ICE, and M.M.M. v. Sessions – three legal actions that challenged the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance and family-separation policies.

The agreement gives a second chance to all parents still in the United States who underwent the asylum interview process after being forcibly separated from their children and subsequently had their claim rejected. Parents who opt into the settlement will have their asylum claims reevaluated, including the opportunity to submit additional evidence and testimony. Click here to read the full settlement.

According to Sirine Shebaya, senior staff attorney for Muslim Advocates, “Nearly six months after the administration instituted its cruel family separation policy, and with many parents and children still detained and desperate for a solution, this is an important first step. With this agreement, parents who had children forcibly taken from them will finally get a real chance at securing safety and stability for themselves and their families.”

According to Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, legal director of the Immigrant Advocacy Program at the Legal Aid Justice Center in Virginia, “Our government forcibly ripped children from the arms of asylum-seeking parents, and then asked them, debilitated by trauma, all by themselves, unrepresented by lawyers, to articulate complex legal claims without any support or accommodation. With this settlement, those parents will now finally have a fair shot at winning protection in the United States.”

Dora v. Sessions was filed in August in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by Muslim Advocates and Legal Aid Justice Center on behalf of 29 plaintiffs forcibly separated from their children under the Trump administration’s cruel and inhumane “zero tolerance” policy.  The complaint alleged that, because of the disabling trauma of family separation, parents were confused, disoriented, unable to focus on anything other than the whereabouts and well-being of their children, and unable to adequately articulate their experiences to the interviewing officers. As a result, the plaintiffs received negative credible fear determinations, and faced immediate deportation. The complaint raised claims under the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment. The Dora claims have been added to the Ms. L case, and those two cases along with the M.M.M. litigation are all proceeding together in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.