Erika Andiola | firstname.lastname@example.org
Vanessa Moreno | email@example.com
Melissa Flores | firstname.lastname@example.org
Arianna Rosales | email@example.com
Megan McKenna | firstname.lastname@example.org
Paige Chan | email@example.com
Washington D.C.— Late last year, the federal government reached a long-awaited settlement agreement in the class action lawsuit brought on behalf of immigrant families cruelly separated under the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy. Though it offers some helpful benefits, the settlement falls far short of our government’s moral obligation to meaningfully redress the harm it inflicted on more than 5,000 children and their parents. While the settlement created a mechanism for separated families to apply for asylum, it failed to provide them with lawyers to help them with this process despite ample evidence proving it is extremely difficult to win asylum without legal representation. As a result, many separated parents could face deportation and re-separation.
In response, a coalition of immigrant rights groups including Al Otro Lado, Justice in Motion, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), the National Immigration Project, Together and Free, and the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, are stepping up to raise funds to ensure separated families can access full legal representation free of charge. The fundraiser aims to raise $3 million to support approximately 500 families in 2024.
Kelly Albinak Kribs, Attorney and Co-Director of the Technical Assistance Program at the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, said:
“Separated families deserve a fair shot at justice after the extraordinary trauma and loss they wrongfully experienced. Right now, these families remain in limbo. The settlement did not award them long-term immigration status, and they face the very real possibility of future deportation and re-separation. As an attorney, I know how vital legal representation is to achieving justice, and how challenging it can be for those who can’t afford an attorney. The burden should not fall on these families to find and pay for legal counsel when it was our federal government who harmed them in the first place. Our government should have ensured every separated family that wishes to seek asylum had access to a government-funded attorney. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, which is why the Young Center and our partners are doing everything in our power to try to meet this critical need ourselves. These families deserve a chance to remain in the U.S. and to remain together.”
Cathleen Caron, Executive Director at Justice in Motion, said:
“For the last few years, Justice in Motion and our allies coordinated a legal response to one of our nation’s most shameful policies. Our Defender Network has worked tirelessly along with our U.S.-based counterparts to reunite hundreds of separated families, ensuring that parents who were deported without their children were not left out of the process. We’re in the home-stretch now. These families are about to face one of the toughest moments in their journey to seek asylum – and they cannot do so without proper legal representation. The physical and economic safety of these families, and their ability to continue the healing process, depends on their remaining in the United States. We intend to keep fighting for their lawful right to claim asylum.”
Erin Anderson, Managing Attorney for Al Otro Lado’s Family Reunification Program, said:
“Families who fled to the United States between 2017 and 2020 and survived forced separation now have to wade their way through the labyrinthine asylum process to have a chance at staying in the United States permanently. Unfortunately, asylum law is unnecessarily complex and confusing, especially for individuals who are not trained legal professionals proficient in English. To ensure that families who survived the violent act of having their children forcefully taken from them are not separated again, non-profit organizations must fill the enormous gap left by the government to provide the high-quality legal representation these families deserve.”
Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) Senior Director, Special Programs Christie Turner-Herbas, said:
“KIND has worked with forcibly separated parents and children since the earliest days of the family separation policy. This settlement, while welcome, is the start of yet another difficult journey for these families. To this point they have been denied fair and humane treatment; this egregious wrong will continue unless they are provided legal assistance to access their rights as provided by the settlement. Without counsel, most families will be unable to navigate this complex and novel process, and the hard-won justice provided by the settlement will be a hollow victory. Support for attorneys to represent separated families will help prevent re-separation and provide hope for a better future for these families, particularly the children who have already suffered more than any child should ever have to endure.”
Michelle Méndez, Director of Legal Resources and Training at the National Immigration Project, said:
“The thousands of families who were callously torn apart by Trump’s zero-tolerance policy deserve healing and stability, and securing long-term immigration status for them is a critical step towards making this happen. The burden of finding and paying for legal representation should not fall on these families who have already endured so much at the hands of our government. That is why the National Immigration Project is committed to ensuring that attorneys ready to take on representation are fully trained, prepared, and mentored so they can provide these families with the legal representation they need and deserve. We are proud to work with this coalition of partners to give impacted families what they need and deserve.”
Paige Chan, Executive Director of Together and Free, said:
“Six years after the forceful separation of families under the Zero Tolerance Policy, families are still suffering from long-term trauma. Together & Free serves over 1,200 reunifying families who continue to struggle with fears of deportation and re-separation. That’s why Together & Free is joining with our legal partners to ensure that all families have the support they need to take advantage of the Ms. L settlement by helping them navigate the complex asylum process. Only then will they be able to truly begin the healing and rebuilding process.”
The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights is a non-profit organization that protects and advances the rights and best interests of immigrant children and advocates for an immigration system that treats children as children first. For press inquiries, please contact Erika Andiola at firstname.lastname@example.org
Justice in Motion protects migrant rights by ensuring justice across borders. Our unique network of on-the-ground human rights defenders in Mexico and Central America partner with U.S. advocates to make sure that wherever migrants go, their rights will follow. For press inquiries, please contact Vanessa Moreno at email@example.com
Al Otro Lado is a bi-national organization providing no-cost, legal services, and critical humanitarian aid to deportees, asylum seekers, and migrants in the U.S. and Mexico using a multidisciplinary, client-centered, and trauma-informed approach. Their human rights monitoring in immigration prisons and at the border informs their impact litigation and policy advocacy strategies with a focus on dismantling systems of oppression. Learn more at https://alotrolado.org
In 2008, KIND was founded by the Microsoft Corporation and Co-Founder and Patron Angelina Jolie to address the gap in legal services for unaccompanied children. KIND now has offices and staff across the United States, Mexico, and Europe. Our team, and KIND’s extensive network of private sector pro bono and NGO partners provide unaccompanied children with innovative holistic care that includes legal representation and assistance and psychosocial support. www.supportkind.org
The National Immigration Project (NIPNLG) is a membership organization of attorneys, advocates, and community members who are driven by the belief that all people should be treated with dignity, live freely, and flourish. We litigate, advocate, educate, and build bridges across movements to ensure that those most impacted by the immigration and criminal systems are uplifted and supported. Learn more at nipnlg.org. Follow NIPNLG on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @NIPNLG.
Together & Free provides emergency and ongoing support to families impacted by federal immigration policies, whenever and however they need that support. Together & Free’s holistic approach includes comprehensive case management services, legal support, and advocacy. For press inquiries, contact Paige Chan at firstname.lastname@example.org.