Reuniting separated families under Trump is expensive. Should the US government pay?

Republican experts and legislators have made politics so bad news report indicates that the federal government is engaged in negotiations regarding $450,000 per person payments to people impacted by former President Trump’s family separation policy.

President Biden made it clear that he won’t support a high payout. But the story — and the number close to half a million — nonetheless captured the imagination of the right-wing media, conservatives and Republican legislators. On December 2, the top GOP Senators, including Senators Mitch McConnell, enact legislation to block settlement payments for separated families who have “illegally entered the United States.” Politics is a consequence: Biden’s conflicting stance on immigration has turned sharp vulnerability before a midterm year.
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But while lawmakers play a political role, hundreds of immigrant parents are grappling with the consequences of family separation, years later. Many parents who were deported under Trump without their children are now only returning to the US to reunite with them. Of about 5,500 families Separated by US officials during the Trump Administration, about 1,000 people were deported while their children remained, in Immigration Enforcement detention centers, shelters, and shelters. Customs (ICE), or with patronage members in family. Bringing those parents back to the United States is expensive — and who have to pay for it. To date, nonprofits and immigrants themselves, many of whom come from deeply impoverished backgrounds, have shouldered the financial burden of trying to see mother, father, son, and child again. their daughter.

The question is whether the US government should pay, and how much, to help reunite families, and whether to compensate people for the trauma they have experienced as a result of family separation policies. family or not, is currently taking place behind closed doors, as part of ongoing settlement negotiations in dozens of cases. While these negotiations are underway, many new parents reuniting with their children in the United States face urgent basic needs — many struggling to pay rent. while waiting for the work permit. Others say they cannot afford food, medicine and other health care expenses.

Attorneys representing separated families and NGOs that have worked to reunite families argue that parents who have recently been reunited with their children or have not yet been reunited, need immediate significant support. “If [the government doesn’t] Ann Garcia, an attorney at Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), a nonprofit organization that provides legal aid to immigrants. Garcia has also represented parents who have been deported after being separated from their children by the US government. “I know that every parent wants that [support]. We’re crossing our fingers that it’s going to happen. “

ACLU class action lawsuit

The most notable instance where the federal government was involved in settlement negotiations was Ms. L v ICE, a class-action lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in February 2018 on behalf of parents separated by the US government. In that case, the parents are looking for an end to the family separation and the immediate reunification of the parents with their children. The lawsuit asks the government to provide details on how many parents have been separated from their children – a request that ultimately reveals that more than 5,500 parents have been separated.

After Biden was inaugurated, the White House established Family Reunification Task Force in february, designed to streamline family reunions. It initiate settlement negotiations with the ACLU in Ms. L. Lee Gelernt says: Associate director of the ACLU’s Immigrant Rights Project and lead attorney in Ms. L case.

Read more: Biden’s New Immigration Executive Order includes the creation of a task force to reunite families. Here’s what you need to know

One of the ACLU’s focal points is that the family reunification process does not end when the immigrant parent arrives at a US airport. Many parents are returning to the U.S. from their impoverished home country, and have no income, no lines of credit, and no way to make money as soon as they arrive. While the family reunification process provides parents with temporary legal status, it often takes weeks or months for a work permit to be processed. “In some cases [the need is] very catastrophic,” said Carol Anne Donohoe, executive attorney for Al Otro Lado’s Family Reunification Project, which helps with the family reunification process. “We got a message saying, ‘I’m sorry to bother you, but we don’t have food.’

Gelernt notes that, so far, the basic needs of reunited families are being met primarily “through private philanthropy,” like Al Otro Lado. While he said he could not comment on the specifics of the discussions going on in Ms. L v ICE, he noted that the ACLU is “hoping on some form of public-private partnership”, in other words financial support from the US government while NGOs continue to pay for many of the costs. resettlement.

Al Otro Lado, a nonprofit legal and humanitarian aid organization based in Southern California and Tijuana, said that as of 2021, it has paid out nearly $38,500 in direct assistance while helping 31 parents become adults. about. From 2020 to 2019, the organization supported a group of 58 people to return to the US to reunite, and the total cost was nearly 240,000 USD. Expenses include housing, food, medical and other necessities, and do not include the cost of airfare and other travel expenses, according to Donohoe.

Other migrant-serving nonprofits, many funded by private donations and operating on tight budgets, told TIME they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars reuniting parents and children over the past few years. Together and for free and Seneca Family of Agency reported paying an average of $10,000 per family reunion for housing, food, clothing, some medical care.

“It’s really crazy. Garcia, CLINIC’s attorney, said. “Not available [organizations like] Seneca, these families will be left in the cold. “

In many cases, it is the separated families that bear the financial burden. Viviana, who was 17 years old in 2018 when she was separated from her father at the US-Mexico border and placed in an Arizona shelter, is now burdened with financial burdens to see her parents again. She is working at a plant nursery to cover the $800 rent for the one-bedroom apartment she shares with her brother. (TIME is using Viviana’s middle name because of the uncertain immigration status of her family members.)

Read more: ‘We can begin to heal the wound.’ Inside efforts to provide mental health care to families separated at the US border

When her parents were allowed to return to the United States to reunite with her in September – a truly joyful occasion, she said – it came with a huge financial responsibility. With her parents awaiting work permits, Viviana has to find a way to cover the growing costs of food, water, and transportation. When she had to find a more spacious place to live, her rent alone nearly doubled, to $1,500. She and other immigrants in her position have relied heavily on NGOs, nonprofits, and church groups to help them make a living.

A series of other lawsuits

A second type of case was filed under Federal Claims Act, a 1946 law that allows people to sue the United States for damages resulting from the unlawful conduct of government officials. Based on The Wall Street Journal, by “people familiar with the matter,” about 940 families sought monetary compensation for the pain they suffered during family separation.

Many cases are being litigated individually. In one example, 5 refugees searching for their mothers and children – who were between the ages of 5 and 12 when they separated – are asking the government for compensation in a lawsuit brought under the Intergovernmental Torture Claims Act. state, according to court records. The case is being decided by the US District Court for the Arizona District, but the court has held the case until January, according to court records.

The U.S. Department of Justice is also currently negotiating these cases — a process completely separate from the negotiations in the United States. Ms. L financial support for the basic needs of the newly arrived parents. It’s these Tort cases, which the ACLU also participates in, attracted widespread national attention in late October when The Wall Street Journal report that the Biden Administration negotiated included the possibility of paying $450,000 each in restitution.

When Biden refuse $450,000 to answer reporters’ questions, ACLU issue a statement: “President Biden may not have been fully informed of his own Justice Department actions.”

A New White House Task Force

Migrant advocates said: The White House Family Reunification Task Force and its steering committee, which includes leaders of nonprofits including the ACLU and Together and Free, rate marks an important step forward.. Under Trump, the family reunification process is special: attorneys at nonprofits that have built cases for individuals with deported parents and in some cases won a humanitarian pardon for them to allow them to return to the United States

Now, the Family Reunion Team has found a specific humanitarian parole program that targets a small group of about 1,000 families where parents are deported without their children. Because of various issues, including poor record keeping by US officials, about 270 parents have yet to be identified. Parole program allows deported parents the opportunity to return to the United States for three years without fear of re-deportation. It also provides these parents with access to work permits and the opportunity to renew their legal status at the end of the three-year semester. If the situation warrants, parents can also apply for asylum.

In September, the task force launched a online portal to help separated families register to begin the reunification process. The task force and the NGOs that have worked with them say the online portal will likely speed up the family reunification process. As of September 23, 132 families have signed up through the website, according to the most recent task force progress report.

The task force itself did not receive congressional funding; it relies on nonprofits to carry out its efforts. “The Task Force is grateful for the support of NGOs and private donors that have supported this mission, as we work despite challenges posed by legal and financial authorities. released,” a spokesman for the task force told TIME.

What happens next is still unclear. The ACLU’s Gelernt said it was uncertain when the countless talks would end. “Inside Ms. L “We hope to find and reunite all the brutally separated families and give them a path to stay in the country so they can finally begin to heal,” he said. Reuniting separated families under Trump is expensive. Should the US government pay?

Aila Slisco

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