Today, a federal judge said that he would sign on Monday the settlement agreement in the Ms. L v ICE family separation lawsuit filed on October 23, 2023 which would provide restitution to children and families harmed by forcible separation brought about by the Zero Tolerance Policy. As the largest legal services provider in the country serving these children and families, Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) applauds this step that will provide families with much-needed relief.
“Today’s decision is a watershed moment for the parents and children torn apart by the Zero Tolerance Policy, said KIND’s Senior Director, Special Programs, Christie Turner-Herbas, who has led KIND’s domestic work on family separation for the last five years. “The settlement agreement will provide as many as 5,000 families with assistance, reunification, and a chance at protection in the United States.
“When the judge signs the agreement on Monday, the clock starts immediately for children and families to access the support the settlement provides—many families will have just two years to seek relief. The settlement does not provide for full legal representation to help families navigate the complex process, and KIND is concerned that many families will not be able to access the restitution that the settlement provides as a result. KIND urges the government to implement the provisions of the agreement, including legal assistance services and procedures for the swift adjudication of asylum claims by class members, as quickly as possible. While we applaud the many benefits of this agreement, families will need significant assistance to fully realize the justice they have been awaiting for five long years.”
KIND has provided vital legal services to separated children and their families, and served on the court-created NGO Steering Committee advising the efforts involved in this case. Having witnessed separations of children as young as 6 months old at the height of the Zero Tolerance Policy, KIND remains steadfast in its efforts to support these families and reunify those children who remain separated from their parents even to this day.
While this settlement is an enormous step in reaching justice for the families impacted, much remains: first and foremost, children and families need legal assistance to help them access the remedies contained within this agreement. Though a streamlined pathway will allow families to file for asylum, children and families need assistance navigating complex immigration laws and filing procedures, making KIND’s assistance as critical as ever. Children and families will also need ongoing mental health and social services, as many are still healing from the trauma of separation and working to rebuild their lives.
KIND urges families seeking help to go to https://supportkind.org/what-we-do/family-separation-response/ for more information