By Tom Hals
(Reuters) – A U.S. government attorney told a federal judge on Friday the Trump administration would quickly begin to implement an agreement to reconsider asylum for hundreds of families who were separated at the U.S. border with Mexico.
The government agreed this week to settle three lawsuits being overseen by Judge Dana Sabraw, a move that plaintiffs’ attorneys said would allow more than 1,000 immigrant parents and their children to have their asylum claims reconsidered.
“Our point of view is we can get moving on this,” Scott Stewart, a Department of Justice attorney, told Sabraw during a hearing in San Diego.
The lawsuits covered families separated under President Donald Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy aimed at discouraging illegal immigration. Trump abandoned the policy in June after global outcry over the detention of 2,600 children.
The agreement gives parents and children a second chance to prove they had a “credible fear of persecution or torture” if sent back to their home countries.
Most asylum seekers have traditionally passed credible fear interviews, which prevents quick removal from the United States.
However, lawyers have argued that many parents detained under the zero-tolerance policy failed those interviews because they were traumatized by the separation from their children.
Stewart indicated some individuals could have their asylum claims reconsidered in a matter of weeks. “The government is looking to make sure, wherever it can, to make things go swiftly,” Stewart said.
The settlement must be approved by Sabraw and has to clear procedural hurdles. The judge praised the work of government and the civil rights groups that brought the lawsuits and said he did not expect any delays.
“From the proposed settlement, it appears excellent,” he said.
Soon after Trump abandoned the family separation policy in June, Sabraw issued an injunction that ordered the families reunited and temporarily prevented the administration from deporting them.
On Thursday, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowed to fight back against federal judges who have used nationwide injunctions to block several of the administration’s policies.
(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)