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Separated at the border: U.S. government agrees to settlement with migrant families

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas promises justice and a reunification for some of the families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border during the Trump administration. A settlement between the Biden administration and lawyers for separated families will let many stay in the United States and apply for asylum.

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS: I have met with reunited families. The trauma does not end upon reunification. There is a great deal of healing needed. And we are committed to doing that which is necessary to restoring these individuals, their health and well-being.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

That's if a federal judge approves the settlement. Some will get jobs and housing. And we should emphasize the word some. Attorney Lee Gelernt of the American Civil Liberties Union says as many as 1,000 of the children they represent have not found their families.

LEE GELERNT: The Trump administration did not keep records. The court said it appears that the Trump administration tracked property more diligently than they tracked the whereabouts of little children. We have been searching for years for these families.

MARTÍNEZ: That effort spanned several countries and much of the U.S. Many children were sent to live with extended relatives or family friends. Others wound up in state-supervised care.

INSKEEP: Now, former President Trump defended his administration's policy in a town hall meeting this past spring. And he did not rule out trying to bring the policy back if he should win the presidency again.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: If the family hears that they're going to be separated - they love their family - they don't come. So I know it sounds harsh.

MARTÍNEZ: The settlement would stop that from happening because it prohibits future family separations for eight years. Mayorkas told NPR that is a fundamental provision.

MAYORKAS: When we promulgate policies, it is vital that we adhere to our country's fundamental values. And we will not deviate from that.

INSKEEP: If the settlement is followed, that means that whoever wins the presidency next year could not resume family separations.

(SOUNDBITE OF MATT JORGENSEN'S "SPACE, PLANE AND LINE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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