The Trump administration may reconsider asylum applications for separated families. The decision, reports Reuters, comes as the government tries to settle a series of lawsuits related to its ‘zero-tolerance’ take on immigration.
If approved, immigrant parents and their children ‘will get a second chance to apply for asylum.’ Consideration would be extended even to those who’ve had their applications rejected in the past.
Muslim Advocates, which participated in the suits, says more than 1,000 people will be eligible to reapply.
The brunt of summer’s family separations affected men, women and children from Central America. Gang crises in the region have driven mothers and unaccompanied minors out of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, which have among the highest homicide rates in the world.
In total, about 2,500 children and parents were arrested and detained in separate facilities under the Trump administration’s immigration policy. Not long after the crisis seemed to peak, a judge ordered reunifications. That process, while largely complete, is still experiencing some hang-ups, with the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency having deported some parents while keeping their children in custody.
Immigration lawyers say their clients might have a better case the second time around. Many migrants detained under zero-tolerance say they were ‘coerced’ into dropping their applications as a way to be reunited with their children.
Reuters says the settlement ‘stems from three lawsuits against the administration,’ filed in tandem by the American Civil Liberties Union, Muslim Advocates and Hogan Lovells law firm.
Other organizations and firms independently or collectively participated in litigation against the government.
The settlement allows previously rejected applicants to submit additional evidence of having ‘credible fear’ of returning home.
“They will finally have a real chance to be heard and to secure safety and stability for themselves and their families,” said Muslim Advocates attorney Sirine Shebaya.
Under the guidance of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department has significantly restricted the bases on which asylum applications may be filed. Standards now exclude individuals fleeing domestic violence and gang warfare.
Both exemptions, not coincidentally, are common claims submitted by Central American migrants.
Along with gang warfare, incidences of ‘femicide’ and domestic violence are high are in the region.
If a federal judge signs off on the settlement, each of the three main lawsuits will be dropped. The judiciary will oversee the agreement and ensure it’s carried out.
“This agreement would give many families a second chance at seeking asylum and leaves open the possibility for some deported parents to return to the United States,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project.
“The Trump administration will never be able to erase the full damage of its family separation policy, but this agreement is an important step toward restoring and protecting the asylum rights of impacted children and parents going forward,” he said.