In the summer of 2018, 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, the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP) and ASAP members have used a wide range of tools to pressure the United States government to stop separating families, reunite families separated under the Trump Administration, pay 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! The government is beginning to reunite separated families, and it is exploring the possibility of settlement in monetary damages cases.
Here are some recent examples of what ASAP and ASAP members have accomplished:
- ASAP members are speaking out about family separation: ASAP has worked closely with families who survived separations and want to tell their stories to a broader audience. These ASAP members have powerfully shared their experiences in a range of publications including CBS News, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. Their efforts have pushed the Biden Administration to prioritize reuniting separated families in the United States and addressing the abuses that they experienced.
- ASAP is co-chairing a working group advocating for family reunification and redress: ASAP now 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.
- ASAP is helping separated families reunite: Under the Trump Administration, ASAP successfully helped our client Leticia return to the United States along with eight fathers. All nine parents had been unlawfully deported in 2017 and 2018 and separated from their children for years. Under the Biden Administration, ASAP is collaborating with the ACLU and other nonprofits to provide technical assistance and support to pro bono attorneys helping families to reunite. Four families were reunited at the beginning of May 2021, with many more on the way!
- ASAP has connected 284 separated family members with lawyers to help them win compensation: In 2020, together with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCRSF), ASAP launched a placement project on behalf of families seeking justice for the abuses they suffered as a result of the Trump Administration’s family separation policies. Through this project, ASAP and LCCRSF have placed monetary damages cases for 284 separated family members with pro bono attorneys and developed comprehensive toolkits with instructions for filing Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) administrative complaints and civil lawsuits. ASAP and LCCRSF have also provided technical assistance for the project by convening regular working group calls, coordinating trainings for over 200 advocates, answering nearly 600 emails with questions from advocates, and reviewing over 60 draft legal documents.
- ASAP is representing thirteen separated family members seeking compensation: ASAP directly represents thirteen ASAP members and children on their FTCA damages claims, including one family with a pending federal lawsuit. The federal lawsuit is currently on pause as settlement options are being explored. In another case, as mentioned above, ASAP brought a client who was wrongfully deported without her son back to the United States under the Trump Administration. ASAP and LCCRSF have also led administrative advocacy efforts with lawyers at dozens of nonprofits, law firms, and corporations urging the Biden Administration to provide redress to the approximately 800 separated family members who have filed administrative FTCA complaints without requiring all of them to litigate in court.
- ASAP and ASAP members are championing groundbreaking legislation: In April, 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 members to help draft the legislation prior to its introduction, and ASAP member Leticia Peren was quoted prominently in the official press release announcing the bill’s introduction. Separately, ASAP has co-written proposals for Congress’s fiscal year 2022 appropriations process that would protect separated families and help them receive compensation.