LCCRSF Statement on Department of Justice’s Withdrawal from Settlement Negotiations with Families Separated at the Border

Betraying the administration’s campaign promise, the Department of Justice withdrew from negotiations to settle claims brought by families separated at the border during the Trump administration on December 16, 2021. Instead, the Biden DOJ has decided to fight separated families in court, working actively to thwart justice for the parents and children whose lives were torn apart by forcible separation at the border.  

“By withdrawing from settlement negotiations, the Biden administration has made the unconscionable decision to stand up in court and defend Trump’s cruel and unlawful family separation policy,” said Bree Bernwanger, Senior Immigrant Justice Attorney at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. “Federal officials ripped our clients’ children from their arms with no plan to ever reunite them. They subjected them to abusive detention conditions and medical neglect. They at best ignored and at worst mocked their desperate pleas just to know where their children were. Our clients spent months—and in some cases years—not knowing if they would ever see their children again. These are indefensible actions. By nevertheless choosing to defend them in court, the Biden administration has embraced the cruelty of its predecessor. 

Experts have found that family separation amounted to torture and caused extensive psychological harm to parents and children alike, which cannot be remedied without transformative reparations. Many of our separated client families have struggled to afford a safe home, food, clothing, and basic healthcare let alone the extensive treatment that they need to heal the trauma separation caused. 

The government cannot undo the profound and lifelong harm it caused our clients. But it can accept responsibility and accountability for its actions, including compensating families for the immeasurable suffering it intentionally inflicted on them. Making amends is not an act of courage; it is an act of basic moral dignity. It is disgraceful that the Biden administration has refused to meet that low bar.”