In the summer of 2018, members of the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP) were appalled to learn that the government was separating parents and children at the Mexico-U.S. border. ASAP members chose to devote ASAP’s resources and advocacy efforts to supporting separated families, even if it meant fewer resources for themselves. Since then, ASAP and ASAP members have been working to reunite families separated under the Trump Administration, win families monetary compensation for the harms they suffered, and provide families with protection against deportation and long-term immigration status. These efforts are having an impact!
- ASAP is helping to reunite separated families. Since January 2021, ASAP has helped reunite 10 families by providing legal and technical assistance to law firms — one of our collaborators, Proskauer Rose LLP, discusses its reunification work, and ASAP’s involvement, in its recent blog post.
- ASAP is helping separated families fight in court for justice and compensation. In collaboration with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCRSF), ASAP has developed a nationwide network of pro bono attorneys who are helping separated families sue the government for the harms of family separation under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). We have now placed the cases of over 400 parents and children who were separated at the border and have developed a network of over 1,000 attorneys. ASAP and LCCRSF have been training and answering questions from pro bono attorneys on how to win families compensation in court.
- ASAP coordinated a historic meeting with separated families and decision-makers. In August of 2021, ASAP hosted a historic meeting between 7 separated families and high-ranking government officials, including the Secretary of Homeland Security — the nation’s most powerful immigration official. Many of the officials had never spoken directly to an asylum seeker before, without an advocate as a go-between. A group of separated families voted on who would share their stories in the meeting, which was 100% bilingual in English and Spanish and provided interpretation into a Mayan language. You can read more about the meeting in the Associated Press.
- ASAP helped organize over 8,000 people to speak out about what the government can do to make sure family separation never happens again. In response to the Department of Homeland Security’s call for public comments and feedback on this issue, ASAP worked with the American Immigration Council and Families Belong Together to get members of the public to file 8,710 comments in support of separated families. ASAP also created templates for non-profit organizations to participate and file comments. ASAP’s comment as an organization includes quotes from ASAP members who were separated from their children at the Mexico-U.S. border, and can be found here.
- ASAP members are speaking out about family separation. ASAP has been working with members who were separated from their children at the border who are interested in speaking out in the media about the atrocities of family separation. Members have been reaching millions by telling their stories — and expressing their demands for justice — in national outlets including The Washington Post, Newsweek, Good Morning America, and CNN.
- ASAP is championing groundbreaking legislation: In April 2021, Senator Blumenthal and Representative Castro introduced the Families Belong Together Act, which would reunite families separated at the U.S. border and provide them with a pathway to lawful permanent resident status and citizenship. ASAP worked with several ASAP members who were separated from their children at the border to provide ideas for this legislation prior to its introduction. ASAP member Leticia Peren was quoted prominently in the official press release announcing the bill’s introduction.
- ASAP is co-chairing a working group advocating for family reunification and redress. ASAP serves as a co-chair of the Family Reunification Working Group, a coalition of nonprofit advocacy organizations pushing the federal government to reunite separated families, provide them with immigration relief, and compensate them for the abuses they suffered. After the Family Reunification Working Group recommended to the Biden transition team that the administration convene an interagency task force on the reunification of families, President Biden established the task force within two weeks of taking office.