Posted on October 16, 2023

Settlement Over Trump Family Separations at the Border Limits Future Separations for 8 Years

Rebecca Santana and Elliot Spagat, Associated Press, October 16, 2023

The federal government would be barred from immigration policies that separate parents from children for eight years under a proposed court settlement announced Monday that also provides families that were split under the Trump administration with temporary legal status and short-term housing aid.

The settlement between the Biden administration and the American Civil Liberties Union, if approved by a judge, would at least temporarily prohibit the type of “zero-tolerance” policy on illegal immigration under which former President Donald Trump separated thousands of families at the border with Mexico.

“It is our intent to do whatever we can to make sure that the cruelty of the past is not repeated in the future. We set forth procedures through this settlement agreement to advance that effort,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told The Associated Press.

Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, hasn’t ruled out reviving the highly controversial tactic at the southern border if he wins next year’s election.

His administration separated children from their parents or guardians they were traveling with as it moved to criminally prosecute people for illegally crossing the border. The children, who could not be held in criminal custody, were transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services and then typically sent to live with a sponsor {snip}


Under the settlement, it would still be possible to separate children from parents or guardians, but under limited scenarios, as has been the case for many years. They include if the child is being abused or the parent committed a much more serious crime than crossing the border illegally.

President Joe Biden issued an executive order on his first day in office to reunite families. According to figures released by the Department of Homeland Security in February, 3,881 children were separated from their families from 2017 to 2021. About 74% of those have been reunited with their families: 2,176 before a Biden administration task force was created and 689 afterward.

Hundreds of families sued the federal government, seeking both monetary damages and policy changes.

In 2021, the government was discussing a possible payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars to each parent and child separated under Trump’s policies but talks stalled on that point.

But the proposed settlement provides key benefits including authorization for parents of separated children to come to the U.S. under humanitarian parole for three years and work in the United States. The families receive housing aid for up to a year and medical and behavioral health benefits designed to address some of the trauma associated with the separations.