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Judge approves settlement barring U.S. border officials from reviving family separation policy for 8 years

Migrants camp out by border wall
Migrants camp out by border wall as officials attempt to process influx of new arrivals 04:47

A federal judge in California on Friday approved a court settlement that will prohibit federal U.S. border officials from reviving the Trump-era "zero tolerance" family separation policy for the next eight years.

Under the settlement between the American Civil Liberties Union and the Biden administration, the federal government will be barred from separating migrant families solely for the purposes of prosecuting the parents for entering the U.S. illegally. There are limited exceptions to the eight-year ban, such as when a parent poses a risk to their children.

The settlement also provides social and legal benefits to migrant families affected by the Trump-era practice, which led to the separation of roughly 5,000 children from their parents. The agreement does not include monetary compensation, which was considered by the Biden administration until an outcry by Republican lawmakers in Congress.

U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw approved the settlement during a hearing Friday in San Diego, Lee Gelernt, the lead ACLU attorney in the case, told CBS News. A formal order codifying the agreement is expected to be issued Monday, Gelernt added.

"This settlement is a critical step toward closing one of the darkest chapters of the Trump administration," Gelernt said. "Babies and toddlers were literally ripped from their parents' arms under this horrific practice."

Judge approves settlement barring revival of family separation policy
Maria Chic, 34, gives her daughter, Adelaida Chic, 10, a hug in Fort Myers, Florida, on June 20, 2021. Chic was among the first migrant parents separated from their children under the Trump administration to be reunited.  Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images

In 2018, Sabraw barred the Trump administration from separating migrant children from their parents and ordered officials to reunite separated families.

On Friday, Sabraw, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, called the family separation practice "one of the most shameful chapters in the history of our country," referring to the ACLU's lawsuit against the policy as "righteous litigation," according to a transcript of the hearing. The deportation of parents without their children, he added, was "simply cruel."

While on the 2024 campaign trail, former President Donald Trump has repeatedly refused to rule out reinstating his infamous border separation policy.

Soon after taking office, President Biden created a task force that has reunited hundreds of migrant families, allowing parents who had been deported from the U.S. without their children to return to the country. It has also provided the families temporary legal status and work permits.

The ACLU estimates that between 500 and 1,000 children split up from their parents as a result of the Trump-era policy remain separated from their families.

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