KIND commends the negotiated settlement agreement in the chief family separation lawsuit, Ms. L v. ICE, filed today by the ACLU and the U.S. government. For more than five years now, KIND has represented separated children and helped deported parents reunite with their children while they have waited for justice.
“KIND has worked to reunify families and assist separated children and parents from the beginning of the monstrous policy and is glad that an agreement has been reached,” said Vice President of Policy and Advocacy Jennifer Podkul. “While no settlement could ever fully heal the trauma that these families—and particularly the children—will live with for the rest of their lives, it’s a first step toward moving past that horrific time and ensuring that the large-scale separation of families at the border never happens again.”
Originally filed in 2018 by the ACLU, the Ms. L case was filed to stop the practice of forcibly separating parents and children absent a finding of parental unfitness or danger to the child, which resulted in thousands of children being systematically ripped away from their parents by the U.S. government. In June 2018, the lawsuit successfully resulted in the halt of the Zero Tolerance Policy, and a federal court ordered the government’s reunification of thousands of children with their parents.
For the past five years, KIND has provided vital legal services to separated children and their families, as well as 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.
KIND is working with hundreds of clients who have been anxiously awaiting news of this settlement for years. The organization notes that moving forward the agreement will provide much-needed relief, but impacted families will still need legal assistance to secure resolution to their immigration cases and pursue pathways to permanent residence in the United States, free from fear that they could face separation again.
“We are hopeful that streamlined procedures for impacted families will help them access permanent protection and remain together, while also setting strong protections to prevent the needless separation of children from their families in the future,” Podkul added.
While the filing of this settlement is an enormous step in reaching justice for the families impacted, much work will remain: first and foremost, children and families will need legal assistance to help them even access the remedies contained within this agreement. Though a streamlined pathway will allow families to file for asylum, children and families will 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 Congress to fully fund implementation of the settlement, support legal and social services for separated families, and to continue the vital work of the Family Reunification Task Force. KIND also urges private philanthropy to help fill this urgent service gap. Similarly, KIND urges the federal government to promulgate regulations and to take additional steps to prevent unnecessary separations in the future.