Judge Gives OK for Separated Families to Seek Asylum

SAN DIEGO (CN) – Pending his approval of a settlement, a federal judge Friday told families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border and attorneys for the government they can start moving forward on the asylum process.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw of the Southern District of California said he approves “in concept” an agreement between the Justice Department and attorneys for families separated under President Donald Trump’s since-abandoned “zero tolerance” immigration policy to pursue asylum claims.

“The settlement appears excellent. I am very impressed with the detail … it seems that no stone is left unturned,” Sabraw said in Friday afternoon’s hearing.

But before the judge can grant his final okay, he needs to give class members who sued the government over its family separation policy the opportunity to object.

If approved, the agreement will allow separated families to again pursue claims for asylum by having their initial cases reviewed. They will also be able to add information to their cases.

In the meantime, Sabraw suggested the parties “ought to get moving” on identifying which families will be pursuing asylum claims.

Justice Department attorney Scott Stewart confirmed Friday the cases will likely take weeks, or even months, to process.

Parents claimed they failed their credible-fear interviews at a high rate due to their distress over being separated from their children. These interviews give immigrants the chance to avoid deportation by convincing officials they have a valid fear of persecution or torture in their home countries.

Muslim Advocates, one of the civil rights groups suing the government on behalf of the separated families, says the settlement may give more than 1,000 parents another chance to pursue asylum.

Sabraw asked the parties to submit a joint proposed order for class certification and approval of the settlement next week.

Moving forward, he said he wants weekly updates on the asylum process, including the number of parents and children pursuing claims and the proceedings being held “so that the court and the public can keep track of the parties’ efforts and progress with respect to these asylum claims.”

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