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Judge orders government to consider asylum for dozens separated during "zero tolerance"

A federal judge has ordered the U.S. government to review the asylum claims of at least 60 parents and children who were separated at the border as a result of the Justice Department's short-lived "zero tolerance" policy.

Attorneys for the ACLU and the government reached a settlement in September to begin processing the asylum claims of more than 1,000 immigrants separated by government officials this spring, but federal officials stalled on following through. 

In filing the order Thursday, Judge Dana Sabraw of the U.S. District Court of for the Southern District of California wrote that the government repeatedly said it intended to "get moving on this" before the settlement was reached. Instead, the government has since argued that it did not have to begin processing the asylum claims until the deal is formally approved at a federal court hearing scheduled for Nov. 15.

In an Oct. 10 emergency motion to force the government to comply with the settlement, civil rights attorneys said the delay had already led to the deportation of dozens of families who had been detained.

"Over 40 detained families decided to accept removal – instead of receive due process – because they simply could not wait in detention any longer," the lawyers wrote.

Though the settlement agreement ultimately includes more than 1,000 people, Sabraw's order applies to the roughly 60 who have already signed a waiver agreeing to the terms of the September agreement.

  • Graham Kates

    Graham Kates is an investigative reporter covering criminal justice, privacy issues and information security for CBSNews.com.