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San Diego Judge Approves Settlement Giving Second Chance to Asylum Seekers

October 11, 2018

By Alexandra Mendoza

Ana P. Ceballos | La Prensa San Diego

A San Diego judge preliminary approved a settlement agreement the would make the U.S. Government reevaluate hundreds of political asylum petitions by families separated after crossing the border into the U.S.

The plan, which could receive final approval at a fairness hearing scheduled for November, would allow parents and their children a second chance to be interviewed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in order to determine if they have “credible fear” of persecution or torture if they were to return to their home country.

Federal Judge Dana Sabraw, who is overseeing the case in San Diego, found that the tentative settlement reached between the Trump Administration and the attorneys for the affected families is “sufficiently fair, reasonable, and appropriate” and it should be so notified to the plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit.

The agreement will give these families, most of them Central Americans, who came to the U.S. seeking refuge a second chance to have their cases heard. During the months-long legal proceedings, the plaintiffs argued that having their children taken from them made it impossible to focus on their hearings.

While there are no official numbers, it is estimated that close to a thousand immigrants who already had deportation orders against them would get a second chance under the agreement.

Back in late June, Judge Sabraw had issued a court order requiring the Trump Administration to reunite 2,654 children with their parents; however, nearly 200 children still remain under the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement awaiting a decision as to whether they will be reunited with their parents – some of whom have already been deported back to their home countries – or remain in the U.S. with a guardian or relative.

Once the agreement is finalized, it would settle the 3 class-action lawsuits filed by different organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, against the federal government’s “zero-tolerance” policy on illegal immigration that led to this crisis.

At a hearing held this week, the federal judge applauded the commitment of all parties involved with resolving the case. “It would seem that we are very close to bringing this to an end,” she said.

Sabraw urged Department of Justice attorneys to begin with the process so that asylum interviews can be restarted as soon as the final agreement is signed.

The process alluded to is for the Administration and a coalition of non-government organizations to find and contact all the parents who were separated from their children, including those who were deported without them. As of this week, they still had not been able to find ten of these parents.

The judge has asked them to speed up the process so that all affected immigrants can be made aware of their options and let them know whether they will allow their children to fight their asylum cases in the U.S. or if they will request to have them returned to their home countries.

The parties will be back in court in November for the potential final approval, however, the next step will be for them to present an Activity Report next week.

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