National News

Advocates Hail Settlement With Separated Migrant Families; Decry the Practice as ‘Torture’

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at The Boys & Girls Club of West San Gabriel Valley in Monterey Park, Calif., March 14, 2023. (Photo: OSV News/Leah Millis, Reuters)

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — After the Biden administration reached a settlement with thousands of migrants who were separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border by the Trump administration, Catholic immigration advocates want people to never forget what was done to these families.

“We should never forget that family separating is torture, plain and simple,” Dylan Corbett, the executive director of the El Paso-based Hope Border Institute told The Tablet on Oct. 17. “There is nothing you can do to a parent or child to inflict more pain.” 

The settlement was announced by the Department of Justice on Oct. 16, bringing to a close litigation that was first filed in 2018 on behalf of more than 4,000 migrants who were separated from their families at the border. The settlement will remain in effect for six years. 

Included in the settlement is an eight-year prohibition on the federal government’s ability to separate migrant families at the border if they violate U.S. immigration law. However, there are limited exceptions to when families can be separated, particularly if the parents are considered a danger to their children or the public. 

The settlement also includes assurances from the federal government to provide the migrants with behavioral health services for a period of three years, certain medical assistance and temporary housing support for a 12-month eligibility period, and immigration legal services for the duration of the settlement. The settlement also includes streamlined processing of their asylum claims, which includes the opportunity to apply for employment authorization that is good for up to three years. 

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the agreement provides the migrants critical services. 

“The practice of separating families at the southwest border was shameful,” Garland said. “This agreement will facilitate the reunification of separated families and provide them with critical services to aid in their recovery.” 

Kerry Alys Robinson, CEO and president of Catholic Charities USA, applauded the settlement, and called it a “significant milestone” in correcting what was done. 

“By establishing new standards to limit future family separations and providing legal and other support services for reunited families, the United States demonstrates its commitment to addressing the traumatic effects of past separations and ensuring that such a betrayal of our nation’s values is never allowed to occur again,” Robinson told The Tablet. 

Corbett, while also acknowledging that the settlement is an “important step forward,” said that he remains disappointed that the Biden administration had an adversarial attitude toward the migrants at times through litigation, and that the settlement doesn’t include financial restitution. 

“Pain as an instrument of border enforcement needs to end,” said Corbett, who is also an official at the Vatican’s Migrants and Refugees Section and a migration consultant for the U.S. bishops’ conference. “Congress needs to enshrine these protections as soon as possible.”