A court settlement in California has been approved by a federal judge, prohibiting federal U.S. border officials from reviving the Trump-era “zero tolerance” family separation policy for the next eight years. Under the settlement between the American Civil Liberties Union and the Biden administration, the federal government will be barred from separating migrant families solely for the purposes of prosecuting the parents for entering the U.S. illegally.
Limited exceptions to the eight-year ban include cases where a parent poses a risk to their children. The settlement also provides social and legal benefits to migrant families affected by the Trump-era practice, which led to the separation of roughly 5,000 children from their parents. Notably, the agreement does not include monetary compensation, as was considered by the Biden administration until an outcry by Republican lawmakers in Congress.
U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw approved the settlement during a hearing in San Diego, according to Lee Gelernt, the lead ACLU attorney in the case. Gelernt called the settlement “a critical step toward closing one of the darkest chapters of the Trump administration,” highlighting the trauma caused to families by the practice.
In addition, the settlement comes after former President Donald Trump repeatedly refused to rule out reinstating his infamous border separation policy while on the 2024 campaign trail. And since taking office, President Biden created a task force that has reunited hundreds of migrant families, providing temporary legal status and work permits.
The ACLU estimates that between 500 and 1,000 children split from their parents as a result of the Trump-era policy remain separated from their families. An official order codifying the settlement is expected to be issued soon.