Dec 8, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Judge prohibits Trump-era migrant family separation policy for 8 years

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents processing people near the U.S.-Mexico border on Dec. 8.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents processing people near the U.S.-Mexico border on Dec. 8. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

A federal judge on Friday banned the separation of families at the U.S. southern border to deter migrants from entering the country as part of a settlement to a Trump-era lawsuit.

Why it matters: The judge's approval of the settlement may preemptively prevent the controversial policy from resuming during a second Trump presidency, should voters elect him president next year.

  • Under the settlement, a policy similar to the one the Trump administration implemented will be banned until December 2031.
  • The policy resulted in thousands of children being separated from their families and saw even fellow Republicans criticize Trump.
  • Per recent data, the federal government could not confirm whether more than 1,000 children had been reunited with their parents.

The big picture: Trump has again made illegal immigration a central campaign issue and repeatedly used dehumanizing language in reference to immigrants. His aides have reportedly proposed extreme measures to curb illegal immigration, including massive, nation-wide operations.

  • Former President Trump and his aides have not said if they would attempt to resume separating migrant children from their parents, according to the New York Times.
  • Trump, however, defended it in an interview last month, saying it "stopped people from coming by the hundreds of thousands."

Catch up quick: Friday's prohibition stemmed from a 2018 American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against the Trump administration on behalf of thousands of children and parents.

  • The lawsuit achieved a nationwide injunction against the policy.
  • Also 2018, Trump ended the policy through an executive order. His administration was ordered to reunite the children with their parents within 30 days, which it failed to do because of lack of organized records.

Details: Per the settlement, agencies can still separate children from their parents under extraordinary circumstances, such as if the child is believed to have been abused, though that had been the case for years before the Trump administration's separation policy.

  • Families affected by the policy will receive non-monetary assistance, such as health care, housing and legal needs, as well as access to an expedited asylum process and the ability to receive three years of humanitarian parole.

Of note: After President Biden took office, he created a task force to reunite separated families.

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Read the settlement:

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