Migrant parents who failed an asylum screening after being separated from their children at the border would get another chance to seek refuge under a proposed settlement agreement filed Wednesday evening.
The proposed agreement — issued jointly by plaintiffs in three related lawsuits and the Trump administration — outlines a plan to address the asylum claims of parents and children who were split at the border.
Parents who failed an initial interview to determine whether they had “credible fear” to return to their home country, but who remain in the United States, would be granted a new interview under the agreement.
“The reason this is so significant is because when you present yourself at the U.S. border, you get one shot to show you qualify for asylum,” said Sirine Shebaya, senior staff attorney for Muslim Advocates, which represented parents in one of the cases. “And that shot was essentially denied.”
The plaintiffs argued parents couldn’t reasonably participate in credible fear interviews as their children were being forcibly taken from them.
“Some of the parents were so traumatized that they actually couldn’t remember what happened at the end of their interview,” said Shebaya.
In the proposal, the Trump administration does not agree to bring deported parents back to the U.S., but such requests — which plaintiffs contend would be “rare and unusual” — could be raised on a case-by-case basis.
Under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” border enforcement strategy, thousands of families were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border over a three-month period. San Diego-based U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw in late June ordered families to be rejoined, an undertaking that’s still ongoing, with more than 400 children still in federal custody after being split from parents.
The settlement agreement would address the process to provide asylum seekers with a chance to seek the benefit. If either a parent or child passes the credible fear interview, the family would not be subject to immediate removal, according to the proposal.
Sirine estimates that hundreds, or possibly more than 1,000, parents could receive a new screening based on the agreement.
The parties requested that Sabraw address the settlement proposal at the next status conference for the related lawsuits, which is scheduled for Friday.
If the judge approves the agreement, he likely would lift a temporary restraining order he issued in mid-August that prohibited the federal government from deporting families separated at the border.
A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on the proposed agreement.